Defund the Police, Fund These Roles Instead

Thankfully, calls to defund the police are being heard throughout North America where police have military equipment. Despite decades of “austerity” which witnessed governments defunding social services and programs that helped the disenfranchised we’re finally seeing the police budgets on the chopping block. Why is this good? Well, the police have been doing a terrible job and other governmental entities can handle what the police do better. Heck, in Toronto the police outright stopped traffic enforcement despite getting $1 billion a year.

It’s high time we defund the police and reallocate that money to better services.

3) Create a mobile crisis response unit

Oftentimes, a police officer’s role bleeds over from mediation into something that resembles social work, usually involving populations like those who are homeless, intoxicated, substance abusers, or suffering from mental illness.

The results can be disastrous. About half of prison inmates were diagnosed with a mental illness. Around a quarter of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve someone with a mental health condition (and those numbers are possibly severe undercounts). A massively disproportionate number of police calls and arrests in cities across the country involve homeless populations. In Portland, Oregon, the city’s homeless population made up 52 percent of the city’s arrests in 2017 even though they comprise less than 3 percent of Portland’s population.

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Protests Work: Minneapolis Police Defunding Begins and More

Democracy happens in the streets.

Every single person who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement, or has shown support for social justice in a direct way, has helped make change happen in America. The conversation about racist police and blatant police brutality is getting more attention now than ever before; subsequently the idea of defunding the police has reached more people.

This week Minneapolis has started the process of defunding their police. It’ll years, but it’s started. Other successes from the past couple of weeks can be found in corporate America with IBM no longer offering general purpose facial recognition or analysis software to track people (they realized it entrenches bias and racism).

The current pressure on government and racists is working in the USA keep it up!

Go out there and protest, support the protesters, and have conversations with your friends! Just remember to be safe, wear a mask, and stay physically part to not spread COVID.

“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” tweeted Council Member Jeremiah Ellison on June 4, pledging to “dramatically rethink” the city’s approach to emergency response. In a TIME op-ed published the next day, Council Member Steve Fletcher cited the MPD’s lengthy track record of misconduct and “decades-long history of violence and discrimination”—all of which are subjects of an ongoing Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation—as compelling justifications for the department’s disbandment. “We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs,” Fletcher wrote.

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Unsure of what defunding is about? Read on:

Is dismantling different from defunding?

Dismantling implies abolition of the current structure. Defunding refers to shaving the budget.

Behind both is the idea of shifting resources from a paramilitary police force to education and social services with the aim of reducing socioeconomic disparities.

What would replace the police?

The idea generally would be to have a social services-based approach, possibly using the fire department to handle drug overdose calls, health care and social services professionals to tend to mental health matters instead of militaristic, uniformed officers with guns.

But even the council members who want to dismantle the police aren’t yet articulating detailed agreement on a new approach.

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It’s Time to Defund the Police

Militarization of police forces isn’t just an American problem, it’s a global problem, and it needs to stop. One of the many reasons police are buying tanks and high tech weaponry is because they have money to do so. In Toronto, we give the police $1 billion a year and yet something like half of all murders go unsolved and they literally stopped enforcing some laws a few years ago. In Toronto just a few days ago the police allegedly pushed a woman off of her balcony. Are the people of Toronto getting value from their police? Maybe not. Maybe we should do to the police what has been done to other public services: cut them.

Let’s replace the police with an organization that cares about the people they are supposed to protect.

Police have also become more militarized. The Federal 1033 program, the Department of Justice’s “Cops Office,” and homeland security grants have channeled billions of dollars in military hardware into American police departments to advance their “war on crime” mentality. A whole generation of police officers have been given “warrior” training that teaches them to see every encounter with the public as potentially their last, leading to a hostile attitude towards those policed and the unnecessary killing of people falsely considered a threat, such as the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed for holding a toy gun in an Ohio park.

The alternative is not more money for police training programs, hardware or oversight. It is to dramatically shrink their function. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face. We must invest in housing, employment and healthcare in ways that directly target the problems of public safety. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we need publicly financed supportive housing; instead of gang units, we need community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people; instead of school police we need more counselors, after-school programs, and restorative justice programs.

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Ways to Reduce Police Violence

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This past week saw Americans out on the streets en masse to protest police violence, in particular race-based discrimination practiced by police throughout the nation. Non-white individuals get harassed more, suffer more violence, and are treated worse by the judicial system than white people. This has been proven time and time again, with people getting increasingly sick of it with every passing year. 2020 has seen many needless deaths due to racist and untrained officers – Americans have had enough. We can show solidarity (and many already have with rallies) while calling for systemic change in the USA and in our own countries. A few years ago Scientific American looked into ways we can change American policing.

If implicit bias workshops may not be the answer, what can police departments do?
We don’t know how to de-bias people because the culture is so saturated with those stereotypes. My general recommendation is—and I think it’s consistent with what the Center for Policing Equity is generally proposing—that departments find ways to reduce the rates at which these interactions are occurring.

Meaning what?
Police have a lot of discretion on who they can engage with and who they detain, and that can result in wild variation in discretionary stops. You can reduce the amount of contacts without compromising public safety and then the chance for biased outcomes gets reduced dramatically. We have seen that in NYC: The number of stops are way down and the racial disparities are mathematically necessarily reduced because there is less room for disparity.

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Using Machine Learning and Traffic Cameras to Replace Cops

Thanks!

Mass surveillance is everywhere in modern cities. Cameras are on every corner monitoring all sorts of activities, which led one person to think about using them to see if traffic cameras can be used to replace traffic cops. The short answers is yes. Personally, I don’t see mass surveillance as a good thing but what I find really interesting about this isn’t the policing aspect but the data collection of how streets are used. In the example setup it was found that cars broke the laws quite a lot and endangered the lives of cyclists. Maybe we can use the technology to better understand how streets get used and what we can do to ensure traffic flows.

The Results
During a 10 day period in December 2017,

  • bike lane was blocked 40% of the time (57% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
  • bus stop was blocked 57% of the time (55% weekdays 7am to 7pm)

Keep in mind this is just one average block. This means if you are riding in a bike lane you are swerving blind in and out of the bike lane every other block. And if you are on a bus your commute just got longer.

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