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Defund the police? Really?

By Delegate John Doyle - Report From the Legislature | Jan 1, 2021

Actually, I favor giving the police more money. I think that if we raise their pay, we’ll attract more good people to be police officers. And officers need better training, supervision and support, which will also cost more money.

Police departments around the country have justifiably come under fire for tolerating racist behavior by what is really a small percentage of officers. To me, most of those problems are the result of a few racists, a few other officers who just don’t belong on the job and a significant lack of emphasis on racism and other topics (such as mental health) during training.

Those few officers who behave badly (“bad apples”) cause problems at their department, get dismissed and head down the road to be hired by a different department. They often cause similar problems at their new department.

Frequently, they got hired at the new department, because nobody better suited for the job could be found. Higher pay would fix that part of the problem.

I believe that if police academies hired more mental health professionals, counselors, sociologists and criminologists as faculty members, another big part of the problem would be fixed. And we need such professionals accompanying officers on duty. Again, that means more money.

Plus, I think we need independent review boards for police. Once more, additional expense (although minimal).

Most polls show approximately two-thirds of African Americans say they do not support “defunding” the police. Yet that slogan arose from the national exposure given to behavior by police in African American communities. Black people do want the police to show up when a crime is committed. But they want those police to be good people, properly trained.

When I’ve questioned people who support the slogan, “defund the police,” often their response is that they don’t necessarily mean those words verbatim. Many say it really means “re-imagine” the police. Others have given even more complex explanations. But much of the public takes that slogan literally, concluding it means fewer police officers on the job (and therefore less protection from crime).

What’s in a slogan depends, I think, upon both the speaker and the listener. To me, a good slogan is one that is clearly understood by both speaker and listener to mean the same thing.

“Yes We Can,” “Morning in America” and “The Economy, Stupid,” were slogans all clearly understood by the vast majority of Americans. I think that’s why they were successful.

An old saying goes, “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” If we’re going to fix the problem of racism in policing, we need a slogan that doesn’t need explaining.

Whatever effect that slogan had in recent elections all over the country is beside the point. It’s seriously ineffective in advancing the goal of eliminating racism in policing.

Protection of the public health and safety is the original purpose of government (the “social contract” espoused by the liberal philosopher John Locke). Let’s make the social contract work.

Besides, is “defund” even a word?

John Doyle is a delegate for the West Virginia District 67. He can be reached at johndoyle@wvhouse.gov.