At least at first glance, the idea that police departments should be abolished in favor of other methods of protection seems so counterintuitive, it’s difficult to know where to begin.
Yet, a recent survey by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center showed a total of 27% of respondents strongly, or somewhat, support the idea of abolishing their local police departments. Instead of police departments, advocates suggest a system of social workers, counselors and mental health experts to fill in the police role.
The survey, though, also showed 67% of the people polled are against eradicating police departments. The polled consisted of responses from 1,400 adult Oregonians.
The issue was front and center last year during the George Floyd riots and protests as cases of police brutality gained closer scrutiny.
And the survey showed a slight majority of Oregonians back some type of reduced police funding and instead favor using the savings to pay for more public health, education and social services.
The results are interesting and the notion to abolish police departments carries a certain degree of curiosity but is, in the end, a bad idea linked to emotion rather than common sense.
The 2020 protests did a lot of damage across the nation, but they did push the issue of police miscues into the national conversation. Ultimately, that was a good thing. In a democratic society, no public agency or employee is above the public’s review.
The George Floyd incident was a terrible injustice and those who were responsible — mainly former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin — were dealt with by the justice system. Chauvin earned a 22-year prison sentence for his role in Floyd’s death.
The problem is one of perception. A single horrendous act by a police officer somehow filled in as a statement for the entire community of law enforcement officers during the summer of 2020 protests.
Typically, police follow the law. They are not brutal. They are dedicated to serving their community and respecting civil liberties.
The issue isn’t more social workers or mental health specialists — though they are needed — but better training and an acknowledgement that we need police.
Human nature being what it is, we always will need a force of dedicated public servants to safeguard our homes and property. Should there be close oversight of our police? Of course. The public owes it to itself — and to the men and women who wear a badge — to be vigilant about police tactics.
But abolish police departments?