Debate Erupts Over Pathways to Police Reform

Debate Erupts Over Pathways to Police Reform

The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers for suspicion of a petty crime, has highlighted the need for police reform across the country.

In response to Floyd’s death, Americans from coast to coast are demonstrating support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The most common call to action is the idea of police reform. But, police reform can mean many things, and debate has broken out about the best way to achieve meaningful change.

8 Can’t Wait campaign to reduce the use of force

According to the nonprofit organization Campaign Zero, there are eight policies police forces should adopt to reduce police killings. This set of policies is being splashed across social media with the hashtag #8CantWait. Support for these policies has picked up considerable momentum since Floyd’s death.

The policies include banning chokeholds, requiring warning before shooting, requiring comprehensive reporting, and more. According to Campaign Zero’s data, adoption of these policies can reduce killings by up to seventy-two percent. Many police forces around the country have adopted some of these policies already.

Defunding the police force

Data shows that the country’s policing budget has tripled in thirty years’ time, despite dropping crime rates.[1]  One reason for the budget increase is powerful police unions that resist reform. Another reason is local politicians who don’t want to be viewed as “soft” on crime.

As a result of that rising budget, one of the rallying cries of the current police reform movement is to defund the police. The idea is to redirect city funds to community services. Advocates believe that public safety dollars are best spent on housing, health, education, and employment, rather than police and prisons, because improved social services lead to safer, more stable communities.

A hybrid approach is the most likely solution

Proponents of divestment in policing are speaking out against 8 Can’t Wait because adoption of those policies will not eliminate police killings, and reducing police killings in inadequate. Proponents of the 8 Can’t Wait reforms believe they’re a necessary step to improving policing, in addition to rolling back budgets.

Most likely, if they take action at all, local leaders will take a hybrid approach to police reform. This could include rolling back budgets over time, enacting policies that reduce the use of force, and conducting more training so officers are better equipped to think through alternatives to violence.


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