Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Police officers and the communities they serve will be in danger if the wave of defunding of departments continues, according to Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Fort Pitt Lodge in Pittsburgh Pa.
Defunding of police departments nationwide comes in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“Government has essentially abdicated its duty to protect communities and to let police do their jobs. The mission must be clearly defined,” said Swartzwelder. He also pointed out that police in Pittsburgh logged more than $2.2 million in overtime charges because protestors where permitted to deviate from permit routes, making it difficult for police to plan for protection and staffing.
One aspect of the recent defunding calls also involves limiting the amount of excess military equipment that can be made available to police departments. “One of our officer’s lives was saved when his military helmet deflected a direct hit from a mass shooter during the deadliest attack on a U.S. Jewish institution mass shooting,” said Swartzwelder.
Other experts argue that taking money from police budgets could help anarchists gain advantage in inner cities as is the case in Seattle where a group of armed protesters have cornered off several city blocks and established the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone – a sort of protest haven where artists paint murals, speakers discuss topics of race, snacks are handed out for free but no police are in sight.
New York became one of the first states to take meaningful action to restrict police forces after the killing of George Floyd, banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement and repealing half- a- century-old law that has kept police disciplinary records secret in the state. New York also plans to defund $ 1 billion from its police department. And the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) also plans to defund its department which has the worst ratio of police to community at 1 officer for every 433 citizens.
“Citizens are getting very nervous with all these attacks on police and their communities,” said Fred Wertz, a retired security guard in Pittsburgh.
“Six million guns were sold to private citizens in the past three months and that’s the greatest number ever sold in that period of time,” said Wertz. “We’re getting back to the Wild West where everyone is being armed and that is creating a potentially violent situation for communities,” he added.
Robert Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said the threats of defunding police could have serious impacts on union contracts in a variety of sectors.
“In the short run, police are public employees who are in many states covered by collective bargaining agreements. Such union contracts, while in operation, obligate employers to meet the conditions of the contract. Which is to say, pay wages to police, provide for oversight and review, promotion, the wage scale, health benefits and retirement contributions,” said Strauss. “This could all be impacted by defunding and it could trickle into other public sector work, including the teaching profession.”
Kevin Robinson, a lecturer at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a retired police officer, said his initial response to the rallying cry of defunding police departments is that it is misguided. “A better more appropriate term would be a reallocation of portions or segments of police department budgets,” he said.
Still, not all departments are caving in. California’s second largest city, San Diego, will increase funds for its police department. Mayor Kevin Faulconer vowed to keep funding the police department.
And a recent Cato Institute survey found that while Americans have different perceptions of how police operate, no demographic group is “anti-cop.”
Media have sensationalized the extreme fringes of activists, who call for “abolishing” or “defunding” the police, according to some critics. But these individuals are apparently rare and do not represent the views of many people, according to recent research. For instance the Cato survey found nine in 10 black, white and Hispanic Americans oppose reducing the number of police officers in their community – and a third say their community needs more officers.