KETR

Piece of Mind: Reform the Police, Don't Defund Them

Dec 5, 2020

I didn't come up with this theory, but I am going to endorse it.

It goes like this: Democrats didn't do as well on down-ballot races during the 2020 election because voters might have been alarmed at the slogan "defund the police" that many progressive candidates appeared to support.

Republicans chipped away at Democrats' majority in the U.S. House and they well might maintain their slim majority in the U.S. Senate if Democrats fail to capture two seats in the Georgia runoff election set for next month.

What was the trigger? Protests erupted around the nation after the hideous death of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops. One of them is charged with murder in Floyd's death. The protests declared it was time to "defund the police" in communities around the nation.

I am quite unsettled by that notion. I realize now that "defunding" police departments really didn't mean disbanding municipal or county police agencies. Efforts took root in many cities to re-allocate police money to community services.

I am much more comfortable with the idea that we need to "reform" police practices in many communities, make the cops more sensitive to how others perceive them when they arrest minority residents and how they treat them once they are in custody.

Former President Barack Obama, who has re-entered the political arena with his full-throated support of President-elect Biden, spoke to this police issue the other day. He expressed concern about the "defund" slogan and whether too many Americans took it literally.

Communities need police protection the way they need fire protection, or water service, or having their garbage picked up. I am unaware of any serious American who favors lawlessness on our streets.
Am I frightened by the conduct of officers who react as those cops did in Minneapolis when George Floyd was killed seemingly because he was a black man who committed a misdemeanor offense? Absolutely, I am! I also am frightened by other reports in other communities of police officers shooting African-Americans who weren't resisting arrest, or were running away from officers.

Defunding police departments, though, is not the answer ... even in the form it is actually taking. We should change the discussion topic to "reform the police," which is where I hope President Biden can take this discussion as we move it forward.
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John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.