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OPINION: ‘Defunding’ police is not the answer

— – From the Journal Times of Racine

Throughout the country right now, there is a movement to “defund” law enforcement.

In most places where that’s being proposed, the idea is to take money away from local police departments and direct it to other services.

In Milwaukee, there is a proposal to cut $75 million out of the police department’s $297 million budget.

In Madison, where the words “Defund Police” were painted across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, organizers are asking the city to use police funding to pay for programs to help the Black community with things like housing, education and mental health.

The former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin’s decision to put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for what prosecutors say was more than eight minutes, ultimately killing him, was abhorrent and never should have been made. The same for the three ex-officers who stood by and watched Floyd die without stepping in to intervene.

Now is the time to re-consider police policies and discuss new training and ideas such as Community Oriented Policing, as the Racine Police Department has. It’s not the time to reduce the number of police officers on the force.

If you are cutting back, what do you want to cut? Should we cut from the third shift, so that if you call at 3 a.m. to report that someone is breaking into your house, you’ll be told an officer will be in there in 30 minutes to an hour? That is not going to be acceptable. In an emergency, every minute counts.

Or are you going to cut an investigator, placing the priority on violent crimes and putting crimes like theft on the back burner?

Police do a lot more than what is shown on TV. Behind the scenes, they are stopping human traffickers, they are arresting drug dealers so that fewer people become addicted, which can lead to other crimes or fatal drug overdoses.

They are going into homes and working directly with social workers to get children out of dangerous, abusive situations.

Just a few months ago, members of the community were sending pizza, gift cards and words of encouragement to thank officers for their service during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now it seems some have forgotten about the 99% of good officers out there.

There are bad cops in America, not just in Minneapolis, and they need to be punished; now is the time to look at policies. But it’s not the time to make severe cuts.

Over the past three months, we have been living in a surreal world — a world where schools and businesses have been closed, a world where there are no festivals or mass gatherings.

But have we forgotten all the mass shootings?

Have we forgotten about mass-casualty events, such as the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting in Las Vegas where 58 people were killed and 869 people were injured?

Have we forgotten about Feb. 26 of this year, when six people were killed in Milwaukee at the MillerCoors plant when a man open fire on co-workers?

Have we forgotten about April 27 of this year, when five people were shot dead in a home near 12th and Locust streets in Milwaukee?

In Racine, earlier this month, five people were shot at North Beach.

It’s not an option for police to respond to those calls without protecting themselves. Are the police supposed to take out a loudspeaker and ask to “talk to the shooter?” That is not going to work.

If something bad happens, people deserve to know the police will be there to clear the area and make it safe.

While more training and a review of policies is good, it’s not time to cut funding. That would only cause other problems down the road.

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