Among the civil rights activists, there is a certain amount of people advocating for the police departments in the United States to be defunded or abolished. There is no reason for these demands to not be at least considered. Activists argue that America is over-investing in the police, which leaves fewer resources for the support of other public services. They have also claimed that excessive investment in policing results in higher levels of professional misconduct and otherwise preventable criminalization, especially in communities of color. However, policymakers must resist the will to take decisive action as adequate funding has been reported to ensure the high quality of police work.
When it comes to considering the reasons for the police defunding, one must consider the following. In order to empirically assess how municipalities and states finance the police, Rushin and Michalski (2020) have brought together numerous national databases on the expenditures of local governments. It has been found out that the funding of local police varies considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A large part of these differences is due to the fact that police departments receive funding mainly from property taxes and local sales. This mechanism results in communities with economic disadvantages – that is, those who need public security services the most – often being unable to afford them.
Moreover, it has been stated that the widespread defunding of police institutions can have serious and undesired consequences. Rushin and Michalski (2020) assert that it can lead to increased criminality, complicate efforts to regulate police misconduct and lower staff safety. With their budgets decreasing, defunded departments might also want to search for additional revenue with the help of potentially adverse practices such as excessive fining and confiscation of civil assets. Defunding could mean that the provision of public security services will be left to the private sector. In addition, agencies without funding may find themselves having to reduce staff salaries, that way limiting qualified personnel being recruited and retained.
Taking into consideration all these shortcomings, one might find it reasonable to remain skeptical in defunding significantly improving police performance in many aspects. However, it might be useful to fundamentally review the way in which the police are funded. According to Rushin and Michalski (2020), policing should be viewed as the common good that should be distributed among the public. Similar to the income distribution initiatives that were designed to balance out the access to education, states should take measures to equalize police departments’ funding to address their specific needs. This will secure localities having minimal resources to solve crimes and enhance people’s security irrespective of the local financial base. In addition, to warrant the police work’s quality, local departments should be required to allocate their budget’s particular percentage for training employees and accountability. All combined, these provisions could assure that sufficient resources are available to localities to advance the common good without diverting scarce resources from other community-based initiatives.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the currently existing police funding practices need to be changed drastically. However, due to particular cautions about the consequences of widespread defunding, alternative solutions are to be implemented. These include equalizing funding in accordance with a particular department’s needs and requiring agencies to earmark a portion of their budget for improving the service quality. Then there will most likely be a result that those advocating for defunding hope for – exceptional policing that performs their duty of serving the public as well as they must.
Rushin, Stephen, and Roger Michalski. “Police Funding.” Florida Law Review, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 277-331.