I know y’all have seen #defundthepolice all over social media. I saw the hashtag and was immediately triggered. Let me take you back a few short years ago.
Picture it Washington, Georgia July 2014. There were six members on the city council – three black and three white with a white mayor to “break any ties.” My auntie was the Police Chief, but she had served for years as Assistant Police Chief. I grew up watching the city bring in outsider after outsider…white man after white man…to be the police chief to keep her from having the job. She finally got the job, but then in July 2014 there was a motion made to defund the budget of the Washington Police Department. The vote was split across the council so the mayor had the vote. They decided to move the money over to the Sheriff’s department. The city police patrolled the city limits where a large portion of black residents live whereas the Sheriff’s department patrolled the county and the county jail. Since 2014, I’ve heard of much more crime in the neighborhoods where I grew up playing in the streets not having to worry about gun shots and robberies. Where we could leave our cars and doors unlocked with no worry of anyone coming in to take anything. I’m not saying that crime was nonexistent, it just wasn’t as widespread as it seems to be now without a police department around.
So when I saw #defundthepolice this is all I could think about. I kept replaying how things happened in my hometown and what it looks like now. I was triggered. All of the emotions that I felt 6 years ago came flooding into my consciousness. But thankfully I didn’t stop with my emotions. I read more about what this movement means and it began to make so much sense!
After reading more, I have a better understanding. The foundation for policing in America was flawed from the start. It was and has always been about controlling and criminalizing brown and black bodies. We KNOW that there is major inequality in the criminal justice system, so why not think that there is a need to rethink how we see policing in America. Unfortunately this is only one problem in the greater fight for equality, but it is one place to have a conversation. I see the need…just think about the pictures of nurses and doctors on the frontlines of fighting a highly infectious viral disease when there was no known treatment or cure wearing trash bags and bandanas, but then a few short weeks later we are reminded of the amount of riot gear that many police departments have to fight their own citizens. Imagine if those resources were poured into community resources.
#defundthepolice is more about equitable, reasonable funding to police departments as compared to other community organizations. I get it. I agree.