Editorial: Defunding police department is knee-jerk reaction

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana this week called on Mayor Joe Hogsett to reduce funding for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and “reimagine” the role of police in the city.

The recommendation is part of a larger movement across the country to defund local police departments—in the most radical suggestions, all but eliminate them—in favor of a community-based approach that spends more money on mental health, housing, food and more.

“Indianapolis is hurting,” said ACLU of Indiana’s executive director, Jane Henegar. “We must stop trying to tweak a rotten system whose roots are riddled with racism. We can only start real change with a bold and shared reimagining of law enforcement policies, practices and cultures.”

We certainly agree with the first part of that statement. Indianapolis is hurting.

However, we don’t agree that attacking the problem by defunding the police department is the answer.

Reimagining, yes. We support a community conversation about the way IMPD and police officers do their jobs. We support changes in use-of-force policies, police oversight and additional bias training.

But this shouldn’t be simply a conversation about how to take money now earmarked for the police and use it for other programs. We think that is a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the only way to increase spending on important community programs is to cut funding for basic public safety.

We don’t believe that to be the case.

The city needs a well-funded police department in addition to expanded mental health and addiction services, programs to try to move homeless individuals into housing, and new efforts to improve social mobility and bolster economic opportunity.

We see that Indianapolis has started moving in that direction. Indy Chamber, the Central Indiana Community Foundation and the Indianapolis office of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. are all working on plans related to equity and inclusive growth.

The city has implemented new guidelines for awarding incentives designed to boost incomes.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has put renewed emphasis on mental health and addiction in his plans for the Community Justice Campus, where the first building to open—yet this year—is focused specifically on those services. And the city isn’t limiting those services to the justice campus. It is working to put counselors and social service providers into the field with police officers to create a more holistic approach to helping residents who are struggling.

Of course, neither the Hogsett administration nor the groups mentioned above have all the answers. So Indianapolis should take this opportunity—when motivation is high and people are eager to act—to comprehensively consider the work already underway and determine how best to expend resources to both improve policing and build our city in inclusive ways.

We like the ACLU’s use of the word “reimagining.” But we’re less sure about the presumption that defunding police programs should be the outcome of that reimagining. We support the conversation, however, and are open to where it leads.•


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3 thoughts on “Editorial: Defunding police department is knee-jerk reaction

  1. This reminds me: I have to resume reading Jonah Goldberg’s prescient book, Suicide of the West. It’s a bit pedantic but indirectly speaks to society’s dangerously mis-directed response to George Floyd’s inexcusable death.

    No culture or individual can solve a problem unless the problem is properly identified. The root cause of our problems today is not “systemic racism” but, rather, society’s endorsed destruction of the intact heterosexual nuclear family in which children are born to and raised by married parents committed to their children’s upbringing to become happy, responsible, productive, citizens.

    Lacking respect, even denigrating, that cornerstone of our culture will, and is, dooming it to the implosion being played out before our very eyes on every newscast for the last several weeks.

  2. Since the root issue is the fact that 75% of black children do not have fathers at home, nothing will change. The injustice and inequality comes from within. The black on black crime and other dreadful problems would subside in a generation if only Dads became a ‘thing.” Without addressing the root cause, as usual, lives will not change. Blaming the police and schools won’t resolve the myriad of issues that result from illegitimate births. Instilling a commitment to raising children within the family is the answer and not just another bandage on the hemorrhaging of nuclear families. I like the idea of the black dad gang, which I just saw on t.v. Liberals advocate for abortion clinics in black communities, and I find this “solution” revolting. Dads! Dads! Dads!