Police Reform – Religion and Politics

Not long ago I did a piece on movements. The basic message can be summed up in a simple statement. The summation? “I don’t like movements.” Obviously, there was a good deal more to the essay. If you want to know what I said, follow the link.

I can’t recall if I said as much in that article, but one reason I’m not a great proponent of the movement concept, is that it’s very common for people in a given movement to have radically different ideas about the same subject—even if it’s the subject upon which the movement was founded.

An example of this can be found in the “Defund the Police” groups that formed around the demonstrations, protests, riots and looting events supposedly centered on the (untimely, and possibly criminal) death of George Floyd.

Initially, most assumed the main message of these folks was what it sounded like. Essentially taking all funding from law enforcement entities around the country.

Soon, I heard others chiming in, saying it wasn’t about them being totally defunded. They felt like “defunding the police” was a way to get municipalities to reconsider their current methodologies for policing. The irony is that reducing the funding of such official parties is about the last way I would try to accomplish that, since they’re sure to need more money to “reimagine” themselves.

Another point of course is that, unless your city’s PD is heavily over-funded cutting the monies they receive will almost certainly result in reduced ability to do what they do, meaning it’s likely criminals will be more able to commit their lawless acts with a greater level of impunity.

I think because of the softening of the “Defund the Police” folks, there sprang up another group who go more or less by the catch phrase, “Abolish the Police.” I don’t think I need to go too deep into why that’s a horribly bad idea.

I spend a certain part of my day reading and listening to people as they hold forth from various and sundry different perspectives.

I’ll acknowledge that I spend the majority of that time listening to Conservative commentators (they tend to give me a good dose of the liberal perspective, granted as they laugh at and argue against it); but I listen to one individual who considers himself to be more or less a “classical Liberal.” I find most of his views to be really rather Conservative. Occasionally he gravitates to the Left, but usual he’s pretty moderate and low-key about it.

Today, he was making the case for reforming—again, what I’ve recently heard referred to as “reimagining”—the police. One thing this individual pointed out was, even many Republicans and others moving toward the Right, seem to be of a mind that this is a good idea.

On the one hand, I want to be clear in saying, that I don’t think this is or at least should be a horrible idea. On the other though, I want to point out something that I don’t think people are seeing.

The simple reality is this. As with just about every other workplace, it’s virtually unheard of for law enforcement to operate as they did just a few short years ago. Completely forget the idea of “old west style” law and order. Folks keeping the peace today, are expected to continually upgrade their collective approach on a regular and ongoing basis.

Am I saying they’ve evolved to the point where they have nowhere else to go; where there are no further improvements or upgrades to make? Of course not.

What I am saying though, is that there’s a pretty constant challenge for them to continue to “modernize” policing each and every day.

Sure, some departments are in small towns or other sufficiently low crime areas that they may be lagging behind the curve on that. Yes, it’s also true that even among cop shops in bigger cities, there’s a distinct possibility the vision isn’t there—that they’re not doing the right sorts of things when they seek to improve and upgrade.

There’re two realities though.

The first, is that you don’t reduce funding if you want them to have both the ability and the incentive, to change. You may not increase their wherewithal—though you probably will—but reducing it, particularly before improvements are paid for and implemented. Not such a great idea.

The second truth is, you’re likely to have to bring folks in to help them to both identify their problems, and determine the best methods of rectification and remediation. This, again, is likely to add to the needed budget for the agency in question.

I’m sure by this point, you’re beginning to see a pattern in my perspective. If not, let me help you out. Even if you want to more or less leave a given police department in its current state, cutting their funding typically won’t accomplish that. You say you want them to better themselves? Then you’d best count on coughing up more cash.

Succinctly stated, changes almost invariably cost money. The more radical the changes, the higher the probable price tag.

As I said in a previous article (about defunding the police), the fact is, you can’t assume it’s reasonable to defund the police (even taking some comparatively small piece of their operating budget), without first suggesting alternative methodologies for action, then planning their implementation, and finally actually putting them into practice. In the time when you’re doing all of that, you can assume there’ll be an increase in cost of operations. When the transformation is complete, just maybe you can decide to reduce the required financial input for your department.

All of this rides on top of a big fat if, though. I’ve talked about it already, but will reiterate it, in order to make sure it sinks in. Expecting entities doing law enforcement to change the tools they use (that’re generally successful) to some new paradigm is bad enough. Among other things, it implies that the groups in question are—whether you think so or not—backwards.

In some cases (I would tend to believe, a very few), that may actually be true. For the most part though, I seriously doubt that’s the case.

Can various law enforcement entities change the way they operate, and do so for the better? They not only like can, but are daily in the process of doing so without anybody pushing for that from outside their ranks. Will reducing their funding aid that process? Would you expect doing that to work if you sought to accomplish the same sort of thing where you work? I would say not.

Thanks for reading and may your time be good.

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