Slogans like “defund the police” have been ubiquitous since the death of George Floyd, and the subsequent interest in the Black Lives Matter movement. With police brutality being so prominent in minority communities across the country, we must ask: is defunding the police the best solution? Alisa Chang of NPR said, in the podcast All Things Considered, that “the story of a white police officer exerting dominance over a Black American with violence is not new.” With the current American police system being so flawed, there is no amount of reform or defunding that could alleviate those problems. Simply put, the policing system is built on racism; therefore, the only solution to truly benefit communities of color would be to abolish the police system as a whole and start anew.
The concept of policing has been immoral from the start. The first police department in the United States was established in Boston in 1838; however, the concept of policing dates back to the 17th century when they had unofficial police departments. Chenjerai Kumanyika, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, explained how the purpose of this unofficial police force could be considered “labor control.” And, because the labor in the south was primarily slave labor, oftentimes the “labor control” was to keep Black people “in their place.” The current American police system no longer has the purpose of labor control, but its racist roots persist. The Washington Post on March 21, 2021, found that 978 people were shot and killed by police in the past year, with Black and Hispanic Americans being shot at nearly twice the rate of their white counterparts when compared to their share of the population. Racism is a larger issue than most people in the U.S. understand. There has never been a substantial education for children to learn about racism, which perpetuates racist patterns. Many policy changes come from education on race, and the lack of education leaves the American police system at a stalemate. Considering this, abolishing the current police system is the only solution. It is evident that the police, which were conceived in racism, are still acting on those racist roots. As a result, it only makes sense for communities of color to not trust the police.
The Pew Research Center discovered that only 14% of Black Americans and 31% of Hispanic Americans have a lot of confidence in their police. 42% of White Americans, on the other hand, have a lot of confidence in the police. The lack of trust is a result of years of ancestral trauma that has followed minority communities through generations, and it is deeper than what meets the eye. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “the trauma of enslavement was so severe that it implanted a psychological and social shock in the minds of Black people.” Many minority communities suffer from this intergenerational racial trauma — resulting in them not trusting the police. When wanting to assist communities of color, there should not be a presence of police. With all things considered, abolishing the police is the best solution.
How can a system that has racist origins be reformed to a point where everyone will benefit? “There will always be distrust between police and black communities until cops own up to historical abuses,” David Kennedy, a criminologist from John Jay University, told Vox. There is not a single policy, training exercise, or community outreach effort that could be enacted to ameliorate the racial trauma that is persistent, or to eliminate the effects of systemic racism in policing. After the death of George Floyd, The Marshall Project analyzed the reforms in policing in Minneapolis. Since 2015, police have failed to make any sustainable changes to “weed out” bad cops, and “law enforcement agencies have lacked either the authority or the will to discipline and remove bad officers from patrol.” George Floyd lost his life due to the inability to enforce policies made five years prior, and this trend will continue to occur in the future. The only viable solution is to abolish the policing system and create one that is not rooted in racism.