“Defund Police” is an offensive sound bite. Its appeal and widely proclaimed message nullifies the more important changes that are needed that lie beneath the motto. It turns people off and stokes fears within the public. It started as a reaction to public airings of instances of alleged police brutality and other happenings where it appeared that law enforcement had screwed up.
Does this mean that cops can act inappropriately and in error? You bet! A recent news report indicated that Washington taxpayers have paid over $34 million in settlement claims against police abuses.
Is every police officer bad? No! But, one bad cop tarnishes every cop and leads to unfounded generalizations about the quality of law enforcement. This perception is aided by the fact that recent press reports have shown that bad cops are either not fired or when they move on to other departments, as their discipline histories are not shared. In April, a Crosscut investigation identified 183 officers across Washington state who had been flagged by prosecutors for issues such as lying, filing inaccurate reports, using excessive force or being racially biased, yet who still worked as cops. These officers are tracked using tools commonly called Brady lists, after a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Even so, there are few if any consequences for bad behavior. The Criminal Justice Training Commission is charged with investigating and decertifying police officers, but this is a fledging effort to date.
This is wrong and should be corrected. Holding law enforcement accountable for their behavior is no different than their holding citizens accountable for behavior. The standard should be the same. However, shouting ‘defund’ is not the way to achieve such change. This takes funding, not cuts. Law enforcement agencies need adequate funding and support for their mission to protect the citizenry and to reform how they investigate their personnel.
Chanting ‘Defund Police’ doesn’t address the problem at all. It is such an extreme statement that creates a counter statement that is just as extreme, not to mention it diminishes the credibility of those wishing change.
Fred Yancey, Olympia
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