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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Rice: Defunding the police is not a solution for social justice

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Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about defunding the police departments across America, primarily because of the outrage stemming from police murders and police brutality involving African American men. All across America, including the large numbers of mass shootings in a wide variety of other public settings, there is grief and outrage flowing like a turbulent river throughout its urban areas leaving families and loved ones dismayed, confused and heartbroken. And, equally important, there seems to be no one viable solution on the horizon to remedy this terrible social crisis.

The one thing I am sure of: defunding the police across America is not the answer.  Can you imagine what life would be like in America if the police departments were significantly decreased? Yes, there would be much uncontrolled chaos. Not only would there be a lot of chaos, but I would venture to say the country would probably be on the brink of anarchy. Picture in your mind for a moment a country already inundated  with all kinds of guns and assault weapons, rampant criminal activities and systemic racism.  Now, think about the lack of social controls to corral these factors, especially with the police being defunded. “Wild, Wild West!” as our ancestors used to say.  Basically, every man and woman would be fending for themselves.

Defunding the police in America would leave devastating effects in its wake, producing a multitude of other grim problems. Here are a few to consider:   

Consider for a moment the current division in this country along racial and economic lines that were enhanced even more during the past four years under the tyranny of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Trump stoked so much fear and concern for many in the white working class with his conspiracy theories, particularly along racial lines, that gun purchases have significantly increased. Through his demagoguery  and fear mongering tactics, he further divided the country to the point of ordinary citizens fearing an approaching civil war. Not only did ordinary white citizens harbor this fear, so too did Black citizens. Ordinary Black citizens have been purchasing more guns as well for self protection. And what compounds this particular problem is that vast numbers of assault weapons are being sold to all these purchasers, legally and illegally. 

Furthermore, consider human nature for a moment. In an environment devoid of social controls and adequate law enforcement protection, there would be more avenues available for the stronger, more aggressive individuals to take advantage of the weaker or more vulnerable individuals. Throughout world history this has always been a prevalent factor that has had to be suppressed for the greater good of society. Remember the old cliché, “Only the strong survive!” Well, that’s true to a large extent. It might not be only the strong surviving, but without a doubt, there would be many more of them living off the “fat of the lamb,” so to speak, than the more vulnerable ones. And the real criminals that have absolutely no respect for the law, or the rule of law, would have a field day. It is for these reasons societies must have prisons in order to contain this kind of behavior. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.  Nobody wants anarchy in a civilized society. That’s why we need the police.

One last point. Keep in mind that more and more violent crimes have been occurring in the past 50 to 60 years in the way of mass shootings, murders, robberies, gang hits and many other senseless factors. One of the major problems in the urban areas these days, and also sprouting up in the rural areas, is the illegal activities of gangs involved in gun violence, drugs, counterfeit money, and all kinds of other contraband dealings. 

To be sure, within all this kind of illegal activity there is much violence and many heinous crimes being committed. And the sad thing about this growing gang activity throughout the country is that many of our vulnerable, wayward youth are getting caught up in the culture of gang violence simply because it’s a group where they feel they can be accepted, and belong to. Also, there is a certain amount of power and glamour that accompanies this particular lifestyle for these young people. The gangs know how to recruit these young people (both boys and girls), and are adept at keeping them trapped within the confines of that lifestyle. The trend and rise of gang activity is another epidemic in our culture needing social controls, and it is a danger to all of us. Another reason for adequate police protection.

Even though I’m a strong advocate for the rule of law and adequate police protection in our culture, I do not condone aggressive police actions, unless dire circumstances dictate otherwise. When police officers are properly trained, properly supervised and held accountable for their actions, they provide a greater safety net for the public-at-large, and we all are better served by that. Most police agencies are in need of reform, but not defunding. Recently, a lot of states have been working on various aspects of reform for their jurisdictions. Let’s watch and monitor these activities and see how it goes. I remain hopeful.

Ron Rice is a retired criminal justice professional, local author, and motivational speaker.  He can be reached at rice.ronald@sbcglobal.net.      

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