Missouri Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer submitted an article to March 23 Landmark regarding his sponsorship of legislation to increase funding for the Kansas City Police Department. No argument there. But Luetkemeyer says, “At a time when radical city councils around the country are defunding the police, it’s time for the Legislature to act.”
I did a little homework on this phrase of “defund the police” which Republicans and Fox News often use to label Democratic policy, even when they’re discussing roads and bridges and the child care crisis in America. Consulting Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica of today: ‘Defund the police’ is actually a slogan that supports using funds from police departments for non-policing forms of public safety and community support. A 2020 research paper at the RAND Corporation suggests police have too many roles in society and cannot address all the social problems they encounter in their community.
The phrase does not mean abolishing or closing up local police departments.
Operation Defend the Badge (www.defendthebadge.org) listed 18 cities who reduced or reallocated funds to their police departments due to protests and COVID-19 as of November, 2020. I would refer Senator Luetkemeyer to that report. Of those cities, 11 reduced the budget to the police departments to divert or reallocate funds to social services or training. Three city councils said the decision was based on having less funding in their budgets due to the pandemic. Three other city councils denied they were reducing police funding at all. At the time the report was written, one city council decision had not yet been made.
There was a variety of options cities were pursuing to support law enforcement in their efforts to provide public safety and improve relations within their cities. Some were working with police professionals to “reimagine public safety” or create a “holistic approach to public safety.” One city planned to shift funds to hire more police civilians so they could send sworn officers from inside jobs to patrol duty. Others chose to fund walk-beats, increase training, new outreach programs, body cameras. Building social work programs within police departments was also mentioned. Kansas City, Johnson County and Northland police departments are already including social work and mental health teams in their community responses.
Operation Defend the Badge did not expose one city who planned to stop funding their police departments. Not one. “Defund the police” is a nothing slogan, meaningless. It’s only useful in political mudslinging, implying the opponent wants to wipe out your police department. Count on seeing it on some of those big colorful postcards coming to a mailbox near you as campaigns start funding their efforts to win voters. Remember the research. It’s right here.