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“Defund the Police”
Maybe if we just rename the police department, things will be better.

Ever since the “Defund the Police” movement began, many observers have wondered aloud if this policy was to be taken seriously or if it were nothing more than over-the-top hyperbole. After all, one of the most fundamental functions of government at all levels is public safety.

For a time, it seemed that common sense would prevail and, after some municipal self-searching, some measures would be taken and some statements would be made, and everything would return to normal -- including the fact that law enforcement is done by human beings, and imperfect human beings make mistakes. We appropriately have high expections for law enforcement and when they fail, we hold them highly accountable, as we are with Derek Chauvin who is alleged to have killed George Floyd, as well as his fellow officers. Their legal prospects are bleak.

The center of the storm, Minneapolis, Minnesota -- the site of the death of George Floyd -- went first, and blinked. It passed a resolution to amend the city charter, but the changes are small. It puts the police under control of a civilian, appointed by the mayor, instead of the mayor himself. Other than that, the changes are aspirational and symbolic. There is no police departement in Minneapois any longer. They have replaced it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Hopes turned to Seattle, the home of CHAZ or CHOP or whatever that short-lived new country was called before it was put out of its misery. The emerald city is considering a resolution with a little more bite. It, too, renames its police department to Department of Community Safety & Violence 14 Prevention. It removes 9-1-1 communications, Emergency Management, Harbor Patrol and Parking Enforcement from under the police -- as if this is what communities of color need.

Portland ought to be next. The site of the battle for the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse still reeks of tear gas and graffiti. Portland City Commissioner Joanne Hardesty doesn't take a back seat to anyone, when it comes to justice. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is tough enough to attend the riots and (some say) purposely get himself tear gassed, but it remains to be seen if he's tougher than Hardesty on policy.

One ironic twist is that while all these proposals fall under a movement named “Defund the Police,” all of them call for more studies, more personnel, more costly shuffling of the bureaucracy, all of which mean more spending. Just not on police.

--Staff Reports. Robert Borger contributed to this article.

Post Date: 2020-07-31 18:54:26

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