Police in America
Police killed over 1000 people in 2019, and 24% of these people were black, although black people only make up 13% of the population. The police force’s dark origin in America serves to remind us of our nation’s racist history, which pervades our society today through systemic oppression helped by the police. Police originally served as a slave patrol, and continued after slavery was outlawed to strictly preserve segregation laws. By the 1900s, police were in every US city in the form of professional departments. Although the police today do not serve the purpose of segregation, statistics show constant racist brutality. The US funnels billions of dollars into an ineffective and discriminatory police force, but reallocating this money towards climate justice would mitigate the problems the police attempt to solve.
The root of our police force’s widespread racial discrimination may stem from unbalanced resources- too little training and too much money. To become a police officer, one must attend a police academy training session. It takes 652 hours of training to become a police officer, which seems like a lot until you consider that a cosmetologist needs 3000 hours, a plumber needs 3500 hours, a nurse needs 4500 hours, and a lawyer needs 4725. Our police academies are confident in giving cops guns and badges and sending them to protect our communities with insufficient training and information. Other countries require around 4500 hours of police training, and show far lower rates of police brutality. Police are then given an exorbitant amount of money and weapons with this minimal training. In Baltimore, “for every dollar spent on police, 55 cents is spent on schools, 5 cents is spent on the city’s jobs programs, and a penny is spent on mental health services and violence prevention.” Under the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, federal, state, and local police departments will receive excess/former military grade weaponry for free. This program allows community police departments to receive tactical military equipment such as armored tanks, grenade launchers, and MRAPs. Why do police departments require full military tactical gear when a majority of 911 calls encompass medical emergencies? The militarization of law enforcement (even school districts are eligible for this military equipment!) under deficient training will lead to heightened and terrible police brutality.
Although police are a necessary force when responding to violence within communities, there is a way to mitigate aggressive behavior through reductions in police funding. An eight year study by Colorado State University, which analyzed FBI and EPA data, showed that exposure to air pollution is directly related to aggression. Low income communities are more likely to live near industrial developments that create air pollution. Therefore, low income communities are more likely to experience violent and aggressive behavior. Climate justice is the intersection of racial inequality and the climate crisis. “78% of all African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal fired power plant,” say the NAACP in their report ‘Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People.’ A sustainable solution to the issue of violent incidents can be to fund clean energy projects, which will reduce air pollution. The billions of dollars funneled into our police each year could better be used in part by mitigating air pollution. Slowing air pollution would not only help our climate, but result in more peaceful communities. Defunding the police will directly aid in climate justice.
A common argument against defunding the police is that our developed system of protection is essential to stop crime. This argument states that defunding the police will lead to a delayed response to 911 calls, a weaker capacity in responding to crimes, and security inequities. While wealthy neighborhoods can hire private security forces, the people most affected by crime who cannot afford separate security will no longer have a protective force. This argument is not true. Defunding the police will lead to the reforms we need to create a protective force for all Americans. Rather than abolishing the police, effective reforms would provide better practices for law enforcement. With adequate training, police can become effective in responding to violent incidents. However, rather than a police response to all 911 calls, social workers should be dispatched when it is appropriate. Police should no longer respond to calls involving homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse because redirecting 911 calls to specialized responders will be more effective. A better trained force with the faculties to respond to a diverse collection of issues will better serve the American people. Because police and social service funding can be combined, excess funding can spread through climate justice initiatives.
Defunding the police will solve a host of societal and environmental issues. Not only will a better trained and more capable force respond appropriately to any situation, but it will also aid the communities they serve. The climate justice crisis plays a large role in injustice in America, and mitigating air pollution with excess police funding will help. The undertrained overfunded police force must go, and bring in a capable force of trained police and social workers.