As the crime rates soar in our major cities, some jurisdictions are reconsidering their early devotion to defunding the police. The anti-police rhetoric, symbolic and real “reform” initiatives, and a complete lack of support for our police officers have all had exactly the effect that everyone knew they would. The decades-long trend of declining violent crime rates came to an abrupt end last year, and it shows no sign of getting better.
We can’t really call the defunding of our police an experiment; that would imply that the outcome would have been unknown. The goal of the defunding movement was never about public safety. Rather, the goal has always been punishing the police and even abolishing law enforcement. Who exactly stands to gain the most from this agenda? Soaring crime rates give us that answer, and the ones who suffer are the most vulnerable among us in high-crime neighborhoods.
Defunding the police proved to be terribly unpopular among the public. Not the tiny percentage of the public that burned down buildings during protests, but the voting public. The media did their best to avoid condemning the violence last summer, and leftist politicians excused or even endorsed the rioting, but business owners and the people who had to live in these warzones had a different opinion about what was happening.
Those same people, the ones who matter because they live, work, and vote in these cities, are now demanding solutions to the surge in violent crime. The answer to violence is the same as it has been for centuries. Our police have always been the thin blue line between the people and the criminals. They are still the answer to the problem. To no one’s surprise, trying to cut them out of the equation did not work out well.
Is there room for reform in policing? Of course there is, just as there is with any government institution. The best mechanism for reform is training. Each and every high profile police incident has revolved around a use of force. Some of these incidents were awful to look at. Some were creations of an irresponsible media capitalizing on the anti-police sentiments of some in society, but not all of them. Failures in use of force almost always come from a lack of training, and nearly every police agency gets less training than it should.
When a police officer is in fear for his or her life, deadly force is a very real option. Police officers will evaluate their levels of fear differently based on their training, experience, and capabilities among other factors. Poorly trained officers are less capable of handling threats to their safety and will escalate their levels of force more quickly than highly skilled officers in the same circumstance. This human variable is impossible to remove, but better training raises that bar for all police officers. Making them more skilled in de-escalation, communications, and yes, use of force techniques, allows them to make better force decisions.
Will those decisions look better on video? Maybe, but that really isn’t what this is about. Force usually looks bad even if it is done right. It is a positive sign that seeing force used against a person still tends to upset us as a community because once we lose that revulsion, we have started down a dark road. But that doesn’t mean that all force is bad, and we do generally understand this intuitively. Training our officers to be highly skilled in all of the areas surrounding their interactions with the public will go a long way in preventing some of the incidents we have seen that were both legally justified and revolting to watch.
Training officers requires resources, and that’s the very opposite of defunding. Training is the first thing police agencies must cut when they lose the already limited resources they have, and that makes our police less able to perform the way we expect them to. Our police officers deserve better than that. Defunding sets them up for failure on a viral video. Most officers would love to get more and better training. If we are looking to reform policing, training is where we should start.