Police reform and racial justice by Mackenzie Mast (Excerpts)
Making changes to the way our police departments function will allow our country to break away from systemic racism and create a future based on a true vision of equality….
The call to defund the police is a highly controversial topic. Many critics argue that defunding the police will allow violence and crime to rise. While this might be a valid concern, research has shown that when police “[reduce] their targeting of low-level offenses,” crime rates for those offenses drop. In addition to this, research also states that “aggressive policing tactics lead to social disruption that instigates crime” (Caffrey et al.). Defunding the police redirects funds to community resources to help with various public needs. Large budgets for law enforcement agencies can lead to other social services, such as healthcare, education, and public housing [that] receive less funding. Channeling money into these services can help people gain the resources needed which will reduce the source of crime….
As Christians, we should be upset with a system that perpetuates violence and injustice towards our fellow human beings and should support the cause to reform law enforcement agencies. If murder is a sin, then we should be actively protesting against a system in which killing someone can go without consequence. Christians should be the leaders in the push to reform the police since we believe that unnecessary violence against anyone is fundamentally wrong….
While Congress is responsible for enacting police reform on the national level, there are many ways in which local governments can also make a difference. In an article from Christian Century, Anna Smith explains how the city of Eugene, Oregon is already showing us what defunding police departments looks like. The city has created a community program named CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets), that deals with mental-illness issues, substance abuse, and homelessness issues. Their goal is to reduce violent and unnecessary police encounters with disturbances that are not crime related. According to the article, a “2016 study estimated that 20 to 50 percent of fatal encounters with law enforcement involved someone with mental illness.” This rate can be reduced by less police involvement and the development of programs like these, ones with trained professionals who know how to deal with these particular situations. Other cities have taken initiative to replicate this program idea too….
We must change our perception that only police officers can solve problems, especially ones caused by health care issues, poor education, and job instability. Giving social programs resources to help people at the root of conflict allows for people within a community to have some stability in their daily life. Reforming our law enforcement agencies helps people of color begin to feel safer and helps us to eliminate systemic racism. Eliminating racial injustice is a big job, but one that is essential if we want to create a better society and safer world.
Caffrey, Cait. “Defund the Police (Slogan).” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2020. EBSCOhost.
Smith, Anna V. “Oregon Community Program Shows What Defunding the Police Could Look Like.” Christian Century, vol. 137, no. 15, July 2020. EBSCOhost.