The brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25 has led to intensive discussions on defunding, dismantling and abolishing police forces.
Shifting resources to areas such as increased training might be a better idea than defunding. In that regard, the accountability of officer misconduct — and the use of force policies — are also important.
One of the alternatives being proposed is the reallocation of funds and the hiring of professionals, such as mental health providers, social workers and victim advocates to answer calls for specific situations such as domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse and mental health.
Though non-policing roles already exist, we do not see those professionals dispatched to these types of calls. Typically, we see them working in non-emergency situations with clients or in cases filed in civilian reports.
We also cannot see people in those professions handling cases of violence physically. Instead, making special response teams for these calls, where one has a trained professional (counselor, social worker or psychologist) accompanied by an officer, may make these situations more manageable.
A police force’s budget could be shifted to longer and better training. Longer training is implemented in some countries such as Germany where it can take more than two years. More training for situations prior to the use of force or lethal arms use can potentially allow for better outcomes of high-tension scenarios.
An example is the Memphis Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team Training. In cooperation with some mental health professionals and researchers, some training scenarios were simulated by actors and police cadets. These simulations allow for hands-on training in skills and techniques for de-escalation and handling the mentally ill.
Further, the continuum of force should be well taught and the use of force policies should be revised and rightly implemented. For instance, every cadet should know that the use of deadly force is the last resort.
Indeed, this last resort should not normally be applied at all, unless there are really some serious situations and threats to the officer and/or the public. The use of force policies in police departments should be adjusted to more humane and less-deadly force.
For instance, the Minneapolis Police Department’s policy allowed the officer to put his knee on George Floyd’s neck when the suspect was considered to be in active resistance. When the policies are aligned with the values of a democratic society, a strong leadership in implementing a zero-tolerance policy to excessive, arbitrary and brutal force is also needed.
The accountability of officers needs to be upheld as well.
Why did Derek Chauvin who received at least 18 complaints still have his badge? Though, complaints may not always mean that the officer is wrong, they should also lead to an investigation of the problem. Chauvin may be one of many officers all over the country who have been shielded from being held accountable for their actions.
Without accountability, one cannot even start with better training and policies.
Realistically, training and policies have no incentives to be followed if officers know that their actions will not have consequences. Therefore, action must be taken to expose the misconduct publicly.
One possible risk of defunding, dismantling and abolishing police may be an increase in crime. However, research is needed to figure out if there is a connection between police presence and crime reduction.
Similarly, by defunding police departments, officers may be discouraged to perform their job duties efficiently, such as turning a blind eye to some aspects of their role in society.
Then there is the question of whether police will be ready for violent criminals such as drug cartels and terrorists?
Defunding may not be the best solution right now.
Rather, shifting the resources for more and better training, and accountability of the officers with aligned use of force policies, may be better in terms of a solution — at least partially.