Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA
President, bSci21Media, LLC
The Issue: Defunding Police Departments
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police was a watershed moment in the Black Lives Matter movement and for police reform both within and outside the United States. Of particular note is the growing call to defund police departments.
What People are Saying
Dr. Rashawn Ray, a Rubenstein Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, recently noted that “defunding” police departments is not the same as “abolishing” them. Rather, “defunding police highlights fiscal responsibility, advocates for a market-driven approach to taxpayer money, and has some potential benefits that will reduce police violence and crime.” Money that was flowing into police departments would be reallocated to other agencies based on local needs.
Moreover, he suggested that officers spend too much time responding to low priority calls that are not even crimes, such as animals stuck in trees, and that the vast majority of police calls are for nonviolent incidents. in addition to an overabundance of paperwork. He suggests these as areas to reallocate to other positions, in order to free up more time for responding to and solving violent crimes.
And the latter has a fairly dismal track record, with a minority of rapes, robberies, burglaries, and theft cases ending in arrest. Moreover, data shows only 53% of assault cases, and 61% of murder cases end in arrest, according to national crime data.
In addition, data on crime rate and police department spending suggests that increased budgets don’t necessarily impact falling crime rates. According to the Washington Post, a scatterplot of police spending each year since 1960 (in 2018 dollars) compared to crime rates shows no significant correlation.
So far, several large departments are already planning for reallocating hundreds of millions of dollars, including departments in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore. At least one city – Minneapolis – has voted to completely remove their police department and “rethink public safety from the ground up” though details as to what that will look like are unclear.