Written by Jana Ramos, 15, South Dakota
Eric Garner was a man who died after being placed in a chokehold while uttering the phrase, “I can’t breathe.” Michael Brown was a man who was fatally shot based on reports of stealing a box of cigars. George Floyd was a man who died after Derek Chauvin, a police officer, knelt on his neck for 9 minutes while pleading and uttering the words, “I can’t breathe.” Daunte Wright was a man fatally shot by Kim Potter, a policewoman who mistook a gun for a taser, after being pulled over because of a traffic violation. These names will forever resonate in our community as the names of victims whose lives were slain in the hands of policewomen and policemen whose jobs are supposed to be to protect and serve the community insuring security and safety. Police reform and defunding are crucial in the process of attaining justice for all the lives lost because of police violence.
American policing is riddled with unethical, unconstitutional, and immoral practices. It is a long American tradition rooted in white supremacy. According to the American Friends Service Committee, “In the U.S. slave patrols and night watches were the beginning of a racially directed system of law enforcement designed to secure capital for white settlers.” Although slavery is not the issue today, racially targeted policing and policies have contributed to mass incarceration and unjust killings of many Americans. Police brutality has made our community feel uncertain and uncomfortable in this environment of normalizing violent arrests. Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes to the point of unconsciousness because he was reported for writing a counterfeit check. Excessive force used to arrest or reprimand someone is unethical and inhumane. The police are required to give any person arrested medical attention and yet they neglected to give Floyd this right.
Police reform is crucial in the process of alleviating the decades of police brutality. In theory, the law enforcement is programed to use extensive force to provide safety and security in our community. However, only 5% of police arrests are major offenses such as including murder, aggravated assault, and rape according to ACLU. There is no need for extensive force in crimes such as traffic violations, unlawful assembly, or marijuana possession which is 95% of all police arrests. Minor arrests only lead to mass incarceration and criminalization and the increasing racial divide in the U.S. This is a form of systematic oppression and control that has terrorized communities for decades.
Police defunding will have a greater and more positive impact on our community rather than the continuous use of force by the law enforcement. Police defunding will slowly reduce police brutality, which is still an evident problem in our justice system. Police brutality is a systematic issue. According to Reshawn Ray, a writer for Brookings, police defunding is defined as the “reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality.” Unlike the misconception, defunding the police does not mean abolish policing. Defunding the police is the strive to redirect and reform the violent policing standards by investing in the other social services that will aid the community rather than investing in a more militarized law enforcement.
According to the ACLU, $3.14 billion out the city’s budget of $10.5 billion used to be allotted to the LAPD. Last year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced $100 to $150 million will be cut from the LAPD budget and will be reallocated and reinvested to communities of color. Allocating funds for affordable housing, accessible health care, education, etc. will have a greater impact on our community rather than investing in more militarized equipment for law enforcement. Defunding the police with also allow local municipality to invest in less violence policing like community-run violence-prevention programs.
The strive to defund and reform the police is still an on-going battle. However, cities who are reinvesting and reallocating funds are slowly perpetuating the change that is vital for the future. Defunding the police will help alleviate decades of police violence and oppressive practices that have controlled and furthered racial tensions in our community.