The following article is the seventh of seven parts.
Cities have powers over their police departments. Police department budgets are controlled by the cities, not by police brass, and certainly not by police unions. Often, it is a vote in city council signed by the mayor. Sometimes it is a referendum.
In 2013, the City of Camden, New Jersey, had a problem. It had been ranked "America's most dangerous city" three times. Its police department had basically come to resemble the 1971 NYPD which tried to murder detective Frank Serpico. Its officers planted drugs during illegal searches, pocketed the money, and framed suspects, leading to 185 overturned convictions, and cash awards paid to 88 victims.
This was not a case of a few "bad apples;" the Camden PD itself was the bad apple. It was no different than a failed high school. It was a failed police department. So, backed by the citizens, city government, and Mayor Dana Reed, Camden chose to disband the Camden City Police Department.
Angry protest signs out there, limited as they are to three or four words, say "Defund the Police," "Disarm the Police," "Abolish the Police," etc., like they do at other protests, as with "Abolish ICE." Nothing unexpected in protest-sign hyperbole — either on the left or on the right.
The City of Camden, of course, did not disband its PD based on angry three-word protest signs. Instead, in May 2013, they formed the Camden County Police Department and hired 401 officers with an application process including a 50-page form and psychological testing. It was twice the size of the disbanded Camden City PD, and 155 of the 401, after the vetting process, came from the city PD.
The union representing the city PD objected to the disbanding, but the county PD let its officers vote the union back in by October 2013. So what Camden did was not an abolition, it was just a long-needed do-over.
The results were amazing. Homicides in Camden dropped 63%. A lot of walking and biking replaced patrol cars. A little money was set aside to tear down abandoned buildings used as drug dens. Gone were illegal searches, framing suspects, mandatory ticket quotas, "scoop and go" tactics. On new recruits' first day, they knock on doors in the neighborhood they are assigned to and introduce themselves. When one officer did manage to get corrupted a year later, the prompt result was eight years in prison.
There are thousands of Seattle residents who think the police department was dead wrong permitting the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Through protest or voting, they have the right to push to defund it, correct fund allocation within the police department or disband it.
Likewise, with more than 800,000 police officers across this country, there are indeed racist cops out there. There are indeed a few police department commands so set in racist thinking that they should be disbanded. In all the above instances, the residents and elected officials have the duty to create the police departments which are right for the city and make sure they stay that way.
There are 328 million American men, women and children, and 393 million firearms. Faced with heavily armed murderers and fringe terrorists left and right, police departments must have adequate firepower. However, with the massive buildup for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military was left with a lot of unused materiel. So, it gave lots of it, including bayonets and huge IED-safe MRAP vehicles, to police departments in the U.S. Is this "Shock and Awe" stuff necessary?
When local police officers meet truly peaceful demonstrators looking like Robocop, it is bad for their standing in the community. Cities should inventory this and remove truly unnecessary materiel that can only be misused. Just give it back to the military in case America decides to liberate the Uighur concentration camps.
Both Trump and Biden's campaign sloganeering around "Defund the Police" is wrong. First, Biden never said that; those deepfake videos were idiotic. Second, Biden is his wishy-washy self with his "there are conditions" for funding. Were he looking at actual history, he could easily say sometimes cities are completely correct in reducing or increasing the police budgets they control, or disbanding and replacing police departments which have failed.
Beyond the above fallacies, there is the despicable behavior of the United States House of Representatives and Senate. The Democratic House rapidly passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by mid-June of this year, instantly rejected by the GOP Senate. Less than a week later, GOP Senator Tim Scott proffered a GOP police reform bill, instantly rejected by the Democratic House.
Both parties just tossed out fast, face-saving bills showing they supported police reform, resulting in nothing. They are all craven hacks and don't really care about tackling problems that actually exist in police departments across our country.
Henry Seggerman managed Korea International Investment Fund, the oldest South Korean hedge fund, from 2001 until 2014. He is a regular columnist for the Korea Times and has also been a guest speaker, written for, or been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Bloomberg Television, Reuters and FinanceAsia — covering not only North and South Korea, but also Asia, as well as U.S. politics. Read Henry Seggerman's Reports — More Here.
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