Things to consider when calling for increased police presence.
On January 21, 2022, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, President Joe Biden said, “We shouldn’t be cutting funding for police departments. I propose increasing funding.” Seemingly, he did just this. According to the Office of Justice Programs, Biden requested $388 M for a COPS hiring program. COPS stands for Community Oriented Policing Services.
If fulfilled, the budget would increase by $231.5 Million.
On Twitter, the budget has been circulating. In response, journalist Chuck Modi tweeted, “Joe Biden didn’t just increase police, he more than doubled Trump’s police hiring budget. This is more than a slap in the face to so many who rose up against police terror in 2020.”
Conversely, Tonya McKenzie, founder of Sand & Shores, a firm that works with authors, law enforcement, and other civic organizations, said, “Removing funds removes the services that can be provided by police departments…funding provides resources and specialists that the community continues to ask for.”
Really, there are mixed opinions on whether or not federal and local governments should defund the police. In her interview, McKenzie stated, “As much as people rant and rave and use the ‘defund the police’ phrase, the truth is, we cannot police our own communities. Mental health therapists cannot protect themselves or anybody else while they make efforts to serve somebody in an emotional or medical breakdown. There is no possibility of defunding the police. There is reallocating of funds to provide different services. Getting rid of the police officers is just not an option.”
Defunding the police is part of an abolitionist framework to dismantle policing systems as a whole, but some like McKenzie do not believe this will happen. Moreover, governments have not gotten behind the idea of defunding the police. In major cities like Chicago and New York, governments have actually increased police budgets.
Additionally, Eric Adams, New York’s mayor, said that he would add more police to subway stations to curb gun violence.
Adams also considered exempting the NYPD from citywide budget cuts of government agencies, Bloomberg reported. Adams, a former Police captain, said that he called out injustices and advocated for Black officers. AlJazeera notes that while he did those things, “he did not embrace calls from some progressives to defund the police by shifting money from law enforcement to social work and other programmes aimed at addressing the root causes of crime.”
Adams is not the only mayor with a past connection to their city’s police department.
In Chicago, Lori Lightfoot is a former board president for the Chicago Police Department (CPD). As calls increase for defunding the police, Lightfoot has done the opposite – shelling COVID-19 relief funds to the police as well as increasing their budget for 2022.
For the former, there were demands for a federal investigation, according to the Chicago Suntimes. As for the latter, it is on par with Mayor Lightfoot’s actions (and inactions). Last week, Lightfoot settled a case with Anjanette Young, a social worker whose home was raided by police in 2019.
Yet, while she accepted the settlement, Young still noted that it was not justice. Adams is not without controversy either. After accusations of nepotism when he appointed his brother into a coveted police position, he instead named his brother head of his security. Moreover, he has planned to reinstate a “controversial plainclothes police unit,” NPR said.
They added, “The unit was dismantled in 2020, after its tactics being declared unconstitutional.” In an older article about why the unit was being disbanded, NPR noted that the unit had been involved in high profile cases, including “the 2014 strangulation of Eric Garner,” they wrote.
Garner’s death is one of several police brutality cases that has made it to the national stage, but there are also local cases that have been used as examples of why police should be defunded.
Earlier this month, there was local outcry over University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) officer Nicholas Twardak severly wounding Rhysheen Wilson. According to a statement from the University, Twardak “saw an individual walking south on Woodlawn with a handgun drawn.”
After Wilson fired shots at Twardak, Twardak returned fire, injuring Wilson, body camera footage published by WTTW shows. In the article, Matt Masterson writes that, “Wilson suffers from PTSD and schizophrenia, according to prosecutors, and was off his medication Tuesday when he began speaking to his cousin about potentially killing himself.”
Due to the incident, Wilson was held on a $2 Million bond. He faces the following charges, a statement from the University reveals: 1 charge for attempted murder of a police officer, 1 charge of aggravated discharge of a firearm to a person, and 1 charge of aggravated unauthorized use of a weapon. In court, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy says Wilson was having a mental health crisis.
Last Fall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot launched a pilot program where mental health professionals would respond to some 911 calls. Rwebel reached out to the university about whether or not they have a similar program in place, and they said:
Supporting the safety and well-being of those on campus and within UCPD’s extended patrol area is of paramount importance for all members of the UCPD. All UCPD officers are required to receive 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) in addition to regular professional training and development programs. This commitment to CIT for 100 percent of officers is unusual for police departments nationwide.Gerald McSwiggan, University of Chicago Director of Public Affairs
In a separate statement, the University noted that Twardak was involved in another police shooting in 2018. Charles Soji Thomas was also having a mental health crisis when he was shot, the University’s paper reported. The University said Twardak’s actions “were consistent with applicable law.” This was after reviews from the Chicago Police Department and the University.
After the recent incident, Good Kids Mad City, a community-based organization advocating for Black and Brown youth, tweeted the following:
The tweet refers to previous proposals for more cops in Hyde Park. This was following violence on Halloween and a graduate student’s death. Yet, according to #CareNotCops, this will not solve the problem. They are a University organization advocating for a reallocation of University resources to community services instead of policing.
Defunding the police is a polarizing issue: President Biden and Mayors Lightfoot and Adams call for more police; community organizations suggest that this will not address the root causes of systemic issues. ~ℝ