IACP Statement on “Defunding the Police”
At this critical time, many concerned and frustrated members of the community and some elected officials have called to “defund the police” in response to their concerns over police actions and behavior.
This is a misguided, shortsighted approach to achieving the change that we all seek.
Promoting community policing; embracing systemic reforms; and improving police training, policies, and procedures will require both dedicated resources and an enduring commitment from police leaders, community members, and elected officials. All that “defunding” and shifting resources away from the police will accomplish is to further reduce the ability of police leaders to enact the positive change that is required. Now is not the time to further limit the capacity of police agencies to connect with our communities and to provide services to those who are most in need of assistance and protection.
In addition, the issues in our criminal justice system extend well beyond just the behavior of police officers. Over the years, reductions in state and local budgets have slashed funding for mental health services, homelessness, and substance abuse and recovery services; offender reentry programs; educational and vocational training opportunities; and programs that promote economic improvement.
By default, police agencies have been required to fill the void created by funding cuts in social and medical welfare systems, which often places police officers in an untenable position. For example, the “defunding” of mental health services by state and local governments in recent years means that the police are often the only ones left to call to situations where a social worker or mental health professional would have been more appropriate and safer for all involved. Although police agencies are working to train officers in crisis intervention or mental health first aid, this does not take the place of proper medical treatment.
While IACP agrees there is a need to provide additional resources to social services, education, and mental health services, fulfilling this need should not come at the expense of police funding. By the very nature of the profession, the police remain the only entity of government that consistently and constantly responds to every situation where immediate help is needed. In an already underfunded profession, resources should not be taken away from the police, but rather, additional resources given to these areas.
Successfully moving forward will require a comprehensive, nuanced, determined, and informed policy effort that will involve all aspects of society. This solution will not be simple or cheap, but it is what is necessary to effectively address the challenges that confront us.