Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Police Defunding Experiment

Peter Jamison of The Washington Post reports that in 2008, approximately an hour northeast of San Francisco

officials in Vallejo, Calif., reluctantly took a step that activists are now urging in cities across the country: They defunded their police department.

Unable to pay its bills after the 2008 financial crisis, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy and cut its police force nearly in half — to fewer than 80 officers, from a pre-recession high of more than 150. At the time, the working-class city of 122,000 north of San Francisco struggled with high rates of violent crime and simmering mistrust of its police department. It didn’t seem like things could get much worse.

You may remember when in 2016 Donald Trump made his pitch to the African-American community with "What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose?"

Things can always get worse. And now that there are 127,000 deaths-disproportionately black- later, it's clear that African-Americans had quite a lot to lose. The residents of Vallejo, California thought that things couldn't get worse

And then they did. Far from ushering in a new era of harmony between police and the people they are sworn to protect, the budget cuts worsened tensions between the department and the community and were followed by a dramatic surge in officers’ use of deadly force. Since 2009 the police have killed 20 people, an extraordinarily high number for such a small city. In 2012 alone, officers fatally shot six suspects. Nearly a third of the city’s homicides that year were committed by law enforcement....

 Beyond the obvious consequences of fewer officers — such as fewer responses to burglaries, car thefts and other lower-priority offenses — this city has learned the hard way that a smaller police force is not necessarily a less deadly one....

It is very likely a more deadly one.  When there is a burglary, car theft, or other offenses, a public employee with a gun is the only option. So before the local economy declined in 1996 after closure of a naval base

Vallejo offered generous pay and benefits for public employees, particularly police officers and firefighters. When the economy crashed, the city’s decimated tax base forced it into bankruptcy. The police department, which accounted for much of Vallejo’s spending, was put on the chopping block.

Mayor Bob Sampayan said the cuts were felt immediately.

“We were in triage mode,” said Sampayan, himself a former police officer who retired in 2006. “We responded only to crimes in progress, and everything else was put on the back burner.”

Lt. Michael Nichelini, president of the Vallejo Police Officers’ Association, recalled watching as one division and program after another — traffic, narcotics, school resource officers, community policing — was cut so that the department could concentrate its remaining staff on patrol and investigations. Veteran officers fled, he said, and those who replaced them were often less-experienced cops willing to accept lower pay and rougher working conditions.

“It severely impacted our ability to provide not only top-notch police service but, I would say, even regular police service,” Nichelini said. In a city with high rates of violent crime, he added, the smaller number of officers found themselves repeatedly confronting dangerous situations.

Defunding the police- a big step further than taken by Vallejo- is suicidal. The city partially defunded its force, leading to less- rather than more- accountability.  If police departments are partially defunded, hence are smaller, accountability- a prime goal of the current movement- will decline, rather than rise: Alert Black Lives Matter, which is (insofar as it is sincere) completely unaware. Jamison continues

“If you have a guy who’s in a shooting, or uses a baton, or whatever,” Nichelini said, “that same officer is coming right back to work, because we don’t have anybody else to take their place.”

A virtually inevitable increase in the use of lethal and non-lethal force by police ahas ensued with the decline in personnel. Vallejo resident and former city attorney for Santa Rosa (CA) Brien Farrel

who in his old job frequently scrutinized police-misconduct complaints and defended accused officers, said the extent of police violence against citizens in Vallejo has become a major financial liability as well as a moral outrage.

“My estimate is that there are 20 to 30 misconduct suits pending against Vallejo. That’s an extraordinary number for a city of 120,000,” Farrell said. “I am an expert at assessing the civil liabilities of police officers in these incidents. And the city has major exposure.”

Alternatively, we could do away with publicly-funded police officers and replace them with privately funded employees whose misconduct (misbehavior being a human condition) would prompt many lawsuits. And then the business would declare bankruptcy. Black Lives Matter would surely fill the gap in funding.

Admittedly, if we don't defund police, we will never be able to grasp the utopia, such as when  

One teenager, 16, was fatally shot and died after being taken to hospital. The other victim, 14, is in intensive care.

The zone, initially known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Chaz) and now called Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop), was set up amid protests over the killing of George Floyd.

As it is part of a protest against police brutality, it is self-policing.

In a statement, Seattle hospital Harborview Medical Center said one of the boys was brought in by a private vehicle at 03:15 local time, while the other was driven in by the Fire Department's medical team at 03:30 on Monday.

"The male shooting victim who arrived to Harborview... at 03:30 from the Chop area on Capitol Hill in Seattle has unfortunately died," the statement added.

Although the site was initially occupied by hundreds of peaceful protesters, this is the fourth shooting within the boundaries of Chop in the last 10 days.

A land of self-policing: who knew anarchy could be dangerous?

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