BY VIDYA GOPAUL
Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past summer, there have been numerous riots, lootings, shootings, killings of civilians and police officers alike, protests in the thousands and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter – all in the name of ending police brutality and defunding police forces. There are two issues that have not been clearly addressed by the protesters, which I don’t think have received enough attention. I understand and am onboard with ending police brutality, but the defunding police is a far fetched demand.
There are always some “bad apples” in any organization, be it in office environment, manufacturing floor, political party or even in a family. No doubt that there are police brutalities in the force. And it is seen all around the world. Whether in India, Africa, Europe or North America, similar sentiments are expressed about shocking cases of brutality. In North America, the issue of police brutality is a complicated matter because it is intertwined with racism. That is so because of its population and the media highlighting the issue. I do not believe all police officers in the force have the mind set of being brutal in making arrests.
There are some, like Derek Chauvin, who believe that they have the ultimate authority and power to make citizen arrest at any cost, even if it means to take a life. They believe that they can do whatever and however with the citizens during an arrest because they are the law. How far does the law have to go in order for someone to make an arrest for minor crimes and offences? For example, for a small robbery in a convenience store? Or using counterfeit money, in the case of George Floyd, whose life was taken away at a such an early age? Let’s go further.
If the suspect is resisting an arrest, is it justifiable that several police officers shoul chokehold that person, which could cause their death? Or if the suspect runs away, should an officer shoot him or her in the back? Or if someone went through a red light, is it justifiable to chase the suspect at high speeds, hitting several vehicles, damaging some properties, and maybe injuring people on the road and possibly killing someone? Law enforcement has to make a calculated judgement to balance the pros and cons of the physical, material and financial impact when making arrests. In India, arrests are made by police officers who regularly use brutality and force, but in North America, the mindset and approach is not as clear-cut due to the population being a melting pot of different races, faiths, creeds and more.
There is no “one-size fits-all” approach to North American policing, especially when it comes to perceived allegations of racism. In North America, the issue of racism comes into play because it most often involves an interaction between a white person and a Black person. And with that issue, the supporters of Black Lives Matters and various other groups who are fighting for racism in police force and social justice are demanding to defund the entire police force. But they are two different issues. Defunding any police force in North America is not going happen for two very important reasons: the first is legislation and the second is taxpayers’ money. First, the police just cannot be dismantled because someone wants it. This is called law and order in any country. The government has a law and order system, and the police officers are there to enforce it. Second, quite often I have heard people saying,
“My tax money goes to the government. I want the government to protect me from those people who are breaking the law.” So, how you defend that statement? Since everyone who pays taxes has a right to their opinion, the majority of the opinion so far has been – no government wants to defund the police force. That includes the U.S. democratic leader, Joe Biden, even though he is very much against racism. In Canada, not too long ago, Toronto rejected a 10 per cent cut to the police force and budget, Vancouver rejected a 1 per cent cut in the police force budget, and in Edmonton, the government decided to reallocate $11 million over two years.
Therefore, as you can see from these statements, government across the country is not going to budge in defunding the entire police force just because some special interest groups demand it. During the protests advocating for defunding the police force, there have been unnecessary riots, lootings, damaging properties, burning businesses and buildings, killing of both civilians and police officers. There are some who just want protests because they want to be part of them for the heck of it. And they are not doing any good to the cause. Just remember — if your house is broken into, who will come first to help?
The police. When your loved ones are murdered or assaulted, who will come first to assist? The police. When there is an accident on the road, who will come first to help? The police. Therefore, we need police to keep law and order in our cities, states, provinces and countries. Hence, if those energies, efforts and money were spent in a meaningful and productive way to enhance their cause, that would be the right direction for the right reasons. Remember, violence will never bring justice. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, “no violence will bring justice.”
He led India tp Independence from British rulers through the act of non-violence. It seems that in order to eliminate racism and bring social justice, the main objective is to defund police forces. In a civilized society, that is not going to happen. We have to find other means to accomplish that objective.