Overworked Police? Try Funding Any Other Public Service
On August 30, President Biden further emphasized his decision to increase police funding while discussing his Safer America Plan, saying, “When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police, it’s fund the police (CBS News). We expect them to do everything, to protect us, to be psychologists, to be sociologists. We expect [them] to do everything.” In fairness, employment in the U.S. often means being hired for one job but expected to fulfill the roles of two or more positions. However, this overreliance on police is partly thanks to state and local budget cuts of other public services (NPR, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), with cops deployed to handle the blowback of underfunding these services.
The Safer America Plan aims to support law enforcement by investing in community policing and crime prevention, including funding 100,000 additional officers that would move “officers out of their stations and squad cars and into the community, walking the beat on foot patrols” (White House Briefing). But if alleviating the burdens on the police is the objective, then adequately funding public services, i.e., mental health or social workers, is not only the obvious solution but a necessary one. Investing in and strengthening community services and programs is essential, especially in marginalized and underserved communities, as it decreases the dependency on police, reduces harm and police violence, and shows how the country’s reliance on law enforcement is unnecessary — unless your intention is to increase misdemeanor arrests and mass incarceration (Slate, Brookings). If not, here are a few alternatives that could benefit from federal funding reallocated away from police departments and into communities.
• Consider: how would reinvesting into public services and institutions beyond the police would affect your community? What issues currently impact your community? Is law enforcement the most effective approach to resolving them?
Schools across the country are struggling to provide adequate air conditioning to classrooms amid a heat wave. Since the start of the school year, schools have closed or shifted schedules in over half the states in the country.
Students of color are placed on the school-to-prison pipeline through over-policing and over-surveillance since kindergarten and by school funding deficits that leave kids without desks, books, or safe buildings to learn in.
Post-industrial urban elites wanted to attract shoppers, tourists, office workers, and real estate developers, none of whom wanted to see the destitute and dying people they had displaced. That’s why the government’s solution to houselessness isn’t providing people with housing but driving them away from view.
What followed was a concerted effort to build neighborhoods around single-family homes and the creation of restrictive policies and practices to ensure that people of color were excluded from owning them.
A housing crisis cuts across all dimensions of urban life. Prohibitive housing costs force people to stay with abusive partners, and domestic violence is a “leading cause of homelessness” for women and children.
In under-resourced areas of this country, basic resources and infrastructure are unavailable to the often Black and Brown residents. Access to functional roads, nutritious food, and breathable air depends on your race, wealth, and zip code.
The distance between food deserts and grocery stores serves as a barrier to members of urban and rural communities who lack transportation options; therefore, they may rely on local convenience stores or fast-food restaurants for most of their household food purchases.
The stigma associated with injection drug use has marginalized individuals, forced them into unsafe habits, and puts them at risk of disease, incarceration, and death. The sooner things change, the fewer lives will be lost.
Lifesaving prescription drugs and healthcare being unaffordable to a large population in the U.S. is a problem that will continue to take lives and leave millions in debt unless those in power prioritize people over profits and advocate for drug price reform.
If you arrived from another planet and saw two airports a mile apart, one for Black people and another for whites, you’d think this is some kind of weird apartheid… We don’t do that for airports, but somehow that’s where we’ve ended up with hospitals.
• The United States’ overreliance on law enforcement results from underfunding of social and public health services.
• Increased police funding does not prevent crime but ensures more arrests for nonviolent offenses.
• Prioritizing equitable education, housing, public health services, and more can help reduce crime and police dependency.