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Essay: Defunding the police an impractical, misguided suggestion

Essay: Defunding the police an impractical, misguided suggestion

Wayne Harris, Guest essayist Published 1:54 p.m. ET June 26, 2020 | Updated 1:59 p.m. ET June 26, 2020

CLOSEWayne Harris is a retired Deputy Police Chief with the Rochester Police Department and a national speaker on law enforcement matters.

Wayne Harris is a retired Deputy Police Chief with the Rochester Police Department and a national speaker on law enforcement matters. (Photo: Provided photo)

We have seen numerous people in Rochester call for defunding the Rochester Police Department, although until recently no concrete suggestion had been put forth.

That changed when some community activists and one city council member called for cutting the police budget by 50%. I would like to share some perspective on the matter.

First, the notion of defunding the police is an idea that has been around for decades. And, however impractical this notion is, it remains a clarion call often brought forward in times when questions regarding policing arise.

It is a dramatically slanted position and fails on several fronts. For example, it only speaks to the negative opinion some have of the police, and it dismisses all the important work being done by law enforcement daily.

More: Rochester City Council adopts budget reducing police spending; Warren criticizes Lupien

Additionally, while offering an unsubstantiated opinion of the positive impact defunding the police would have on a community, it fails to mention the very real negative impact it could have on neighborhoods beset by crime and the victimization of their residents. These include increases in drug sales, gang activity, burglaries, and violence.

More: ‘Defund the police’ movement: What will it mean in Rochester and across the country?

Moreover, despite the opinion that the police cause the violence in our community, the reality is that there are some among us not willing to conform with social norms and laws written to keep us all safe. Furthermore, there is no individual or entity trained or capable of addressing criminal matters in our society other than the police. Police are necessary whether some like it or not.

There is a need for comprehensive police reform. Police have an obligation to constantly critique themselves to ensure they are serving effectively, professionally, and compassionately. They must evaluate their policies, practices, training, and procedures to stay current on best practices. They must listen to their communities and work with them to successfully provide public safety. Finally, we must remove all non-crime related functions from law enforcement responsibilities.

There are significant challenges facing the Rochester community and we have much to do. We must continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the social unrest sweeping our country, racism, poverty, violence, and the crisis in our school district. We will have to make some fundamental changes to be successful. Adding to those concerns with an impractical suggestion like defunding the police is irresponsible and misguided. Our energies can be better spent on developing true police reform not chasing foolish ideas.

Finally, there is a big difference between activism and governing. One is convenient, the other is hard.

Wayne Harris is a retired Deputy Police Chief with the Rochester Police Department and a national speaker on law enforcement matters.

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Essay: Defunding the police an impractical, misguided suggestion

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