SEVERE WX : Wind Advisory - High Wind Watch - Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

Defunding the police isn't the answer

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender speaks with CNN's Josh Campbell about the council's intent to defund and dismantle the police department following the police killing of George Floyd.

Posted: Jun 7, 2020 4:32 PM
Updated: Jun 9, 2020 1:15 PM


As retired law enforcement leaders with a combined half-century of policing experience, we share the national shock and outrage over the senseless death of George Floyd in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers. All four cops involved have been arrested and charged.

And while honorable policing professionals condemn their extrajudicial conduct, our system of justice demands due process considerations and presumption of innocence for anyone charged with a crime -- regardless of their chosen profession.

In addition, reflexive calls from some corners to defund or abolish the police are foolhardy and dangerous. Qualitatively improving the policing profession, not disassembling it, is the best means to prevent such senseless tragedies from ever happening again.

Federal lawmakers must find the courage to implement and fund a series of long-overdue reforms that effectively reset, and make uniform, professional standards. This is the only feasible and realistic path forward.

Defunding or dismantling the police means different things to different people, but largely, those who call for it are asking for money to be divested from the police and instead put into community initiatives like for education, jobs and mental health services. While these are important, those advocating for the most extreme end of the spectrum -- fully dismantling policing as we know it -- ignore the reality of its impracticality and risk, namely the fact that we would still need a reliable system that can prevent and investigate crimes.

While people with considerable means tend to reside in gated communities with private security or in other less threatening environments, the most vulnerable among us -- many inner-city and at-risk communities -- endure staggeringly high crime rates.

Defunding will have an adverse effect on citizens most in need of police protection.

Despite the police misconduct cases that get national attention and the countless others that should but don't, it's important to know that many police officers do honor their commitment to protect and serve. But across the nation, individual departments labor in complex and confusing networks of disparate professional standards, training and policy guidelines.

If we want to reduce incidents of police misconduct, improve police-community relations and make neighborhoods safer, we should 'professionalize' the police, ensuring that officers are well-paid, appropriately trained and highly accountable.

A contributing factor to the trust deficit between police and their communities is related to the fact that data collected on police use of force encounters is often incomplete or nonexistent. Until 2015, when The Washington Post took up the cause, there existed no credible, reasonably-comprehensive aggregation of deadly force incidents in a nation that soon celebrates its 244-year birthday.

In 2018, the FBI announced that it would officially launch a database that would track use of force incidents in January 2019, but the data has yet to be publicly released.

And the fact that individual police agencies are under no compulsory order to report use of force incident details, forcing journalists and the FBI to scour open source outlets for necessary data, serves as an obstacle to transparency and accuracy. Federal funds should be contingent on individual department cooperation in a use of force database, where incidents should be reported in a timely, accurate manner.

Nothing less than a concerted federal effort must commence to build and shape a cohesive, effective, consistent and professional system of state and local law enforcement agencies.

This must be a committed, cooperative, collaborative effort enjoined by federal law enforcement -- the Justice Department and the FBI -- as well as the activists clamoring for change and reform. It may begin with a series of summits for ideas, and then must result in lasting and impactful change because 'defund the police' is not a serious solution.

But, just as conceptual interpretations of community policing initiatives remain in the eye of the beholder, police reforms are viewed through individual prisms influenced by the context of individual life experiences. There is talk of congressional action, such as the formation of a police reform commission, of federally mandated body cameras for police officers, and a federal prohibition on the use of chokeholds by police.

But even if these reforms were adopted today, no immediate discernible change would occur in the state of policing. We view these ideas with some skepticism. It's also crucial that the public understands that police encounters can result in harrowing, existential struggles that require split-second reactions and in extremis decision-making.

Consistent training guidance will be paramount in ensuring when and how an officer may apply a particular restraint hold. Reforms like this must not be knee-jerk or reactionary.

The first order of business to reform policing should be to establish a national framework that supports recruiting, training, and retaining police officers of the highest caliber. Consistency across our nation's 18,000 law enforcement organizations should be achieved in such a way that the qualifications, technical and tactical, of every officer in every community reflects our shared values.

Getting there can and should happen, but it will require federal action on several fronts.

Police recruiting efforts have reached a tipping point of crisis. Local law enforcement organizations simply cannot attract enough minimally qualified candidates. Bigotry aimed at the profession remains a pernicious, persistent recruitment obstacle. We know this from countless conversations with qualified recruit candidates who have expressed concern over how the profession is currently viewed. Uniformed cops continue to exist as appealing assassination targets. Recently, we've seen this in New York, Baton Rouge and Dallas.

We need bipartisan legislative and community efforts led by faith leaders and local activists to reverse this troubling trend and elevate the pool of police applicant talent -- in numbers, diversity and qualifications. A robust national public relations campaign -- similar to military recruitment advertisements -- showcasing the police profession in a positive light could aid in attracting a diverse pool of applicants earnestly pursuing a noble calling.

Federally funded tuition reimbursement programs which have been successful in past cases -- as with the Peace Corps and the teaching profession -- would incentivize college graduates, a key demographic to expand in professionalization efforts, to consider policing as a career option. This would help in reducing the burden of educational debt on a large group of young Americans and fill police ranks with eager, college-educated officers.

New recruits and experienced officers alike must receive top-notch training in communication, de-escalation and use of force. Local agencies often lack the expertise or basic resources to develop such training. National standards should be developed and mandated by the Justice Department, requiring a significant investment in uniform scenario-based training in these areas.

The Justice Department should also mandate internal accountability structures that are systematized and made standard across the nation. Data collection and analytics designed to flag particular officers for additional training and supervision, based on complaints and other key metrics, are essential to providing 'early identification' of problem officers and fostering trust with communities.

Developing such detection systems nationally and mandating compliance at the local level with federally-funded technical assistance could happen if we made the commitment and could work to restore public confidence in a more efficient way.

Enacting hastily assembled legislation in the wake of the Floyd tragedy -- though well-intended -- only gives the hollow appearance of police reform and does not serve anyone's best interest. Only thoughtful, bold action will begin to mend the growing national divide between the police and the communities they serve.

Let's commit to funding reform measures. Now is the time. Our police and our nation demand it.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 353368

Reported Deaths: 4226
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55417699
Washington38425317
Marion36469448
Clackamas29440306
Lane27431300
Jackson22837305
Deschutes19958125
Umatilla14358145
Linn12672126
Douglas11962243
Josephine9307195
Yamhill8621111
Klamath7846116
Polk724881
Malheur555376
Benton541931
Coos495494
Columbia377043
Jefferson367752
Union316548
Lincoln315438
Wasco284840
Crook281846
Clatsop242029
Baker199928
Tillamook195529
Hood River190537
Morrow183423
Curry179425
Harney111926
Grant99512
Lake91012
Wallowa67612
Gilliam1524
Sherman1483
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4830872

Reported Deaths: 70874
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147942126446
Riverside3706085008
San Diego3652534170
San Bernardino3576395606
Orange3235695531
Sacramento1587852294
Fresno1453782063
Kern1452271616
Santa Clara1451271895
Alameda1203661384
San Joaquin1023411721
Ventura1008491165
Contra Costa99712995
Stanislaus857501325
Tulare79627958
San Francisco54266644
San Mateo54023622
Monterey50792583
Solano45934339
Santa Barbara45047522
Merced42089579
Sonoma40865402
Placer39157420
Imperial35832764
Kings32649320
San Luis Obispo29837331
Madera23720285
Butte23673265
Shasta23574349
Santa Cruz20943218
Yolo20266248
Marin17665244
El Dorado17097149
Sutter13861172
Napa12864100
Yuba1001982
Tehama9433107
Humboldt9180107
Nevada911690
Mendocino758487
Lassen753046
San Benito741672
Tuolumne682889
Lake6583104
Amador540764
Siskiyou446442
Glenn434232
Calaveras386580
Del Norte357441
Colusa303018
Inyo205540
Mono16643
Plumas16126
Mariposa132315
Trinity86911
Modoc6755
Unassigned2120
Sierra1820
Alpine1030
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 50°
Brookings
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 50°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 50°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Strong winds tonight
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events