Police Defunded? Now What for Your Family?
Updated: Apr 21
What will your community look like after your Police Department has been defunded or abolished?
It’s instructive to look at what’s happening so can consider what we need to do to navigate the trends and prepare for our security.
City Councils in Seattle, Minneapolis, Portland, and Austin are moving to defund or drastically reduce or change their municipal police departments.
The City of Seattle looks like it plans to abolish the entire police department and replace it with a civilian lead department of community safety and violence prevention.
The City Council in Austin has proposed to demolish the Austin Police Department headquarters and move all personnel to underutilized city facilities. The council further proposes to make budget cuts to departments like the Explosive Disposal Team, Lake Patrol, and the Fusion Center. The proposal would turn patrol and many of these departments over to civilian control to be staffed according to the mayor and city council.
The Minneapolis City Council briefly considered paying armed citizen patrols. During a budget meeting Council member Alondra Cano proposed reallocating funds from the police department to citizen groups. She described it as an effort to “respond to the hundreds of people who have formed their own community safety patrol systems to keep their blocks and their neighborhoods safe in this time of deep transition.” Cano and nine other council members voted to add the provision to the city’s 2020 budget. It was only walked back after members of the media and the public inquired about how this plan would actually work.
Citizen Security Groups Forming
According to the Wall Street Journal, a number of neighborhoods in Minneapolis still recovering from the riots, are already forming community security groups to fight a surge in crime. These are spontaneous reactions to the increase in crime and they decreased law enforcement presence. These residents are not waiting for the city to make a plan.
Some residents near the third precinct police station that was burned and looted have even installed a gate to restrict traffic into their neighborhood to protect against a surge of shooting.
The neighborhood began blocking off their streets and eventually constructed a permanent gate to restrict criminal activity. They began an armed patrol to provide security after dark.
It appears that this is not just an isolated trend but a movement that can affect many metropolitan areas. First, we probably need to concede that the actual running of a major metropolitan area is incredibly complicated and becomes increasingly difficult as the metro area gets larger and more complex with competing constituents.
Without knowing much about how any individual cities' budgets work, we have to approach the subject in very broad terms. Politics aside, what we want to try to do here is navigate the consequences — intended or unintended — to keep our families safe while allowing some semblance of normal life.
Tellingly, the public school district in Minneapolis which cut ties with city police in June saying it “cannot continue to be in partnership with an organization that has the culture of violence and racism,” is now hiring private security guards. An online job posting says the school district will pay $65,695 to $85,790 for 11 “public safety support specialists (PSSS).” The posting says these guards will not be police officers, but are required to have law enforcement degrees and experience. Trained like cops. Experienced like cops. But not cops.
The Rise of Private Security After Police Defunded
Despite the teachers' union's misgivings, the forming or hiring of private security is something which is a natural response by communities with non-existent or non-effective policing.
The Seattle Times reports that one private security company in the area told them it was receiving 200 calls a day from local businesses afraid for their safety and the lack of police presence.
Emma Freire writing for Human Events says, “As police in America are defunded, I believe more middle-class Americans will start to use some form of private security to protect themselves."
She says her experience from living in both South Africa and Brazil shows that the middle-class relies extensively on private security.
She indicates that in both countries the private security companies do a very adequate job and largely replace the police forces which citizens consider to be less than effective.
Some of the types of services that they would enjoy include having doorman at multiunit apartment buildings, armed guards, security towers, fingerprint scanners, even security drones. Suburbs usually cooperate to hire agents to patrol the streets. Subscribers can ask security agents to escort them home late in the evening.
Hardware includes CCTV, fences, and alarms. Security firms can be counted on to respond to alarms. However, security firms who apprehend criminals must turn them over to the local police, since the firms don’t have powers of arrest.
Interestingly, the proposals to defund the police usually include moving those funds to other community programs or projects. It doesn't seem that any of these proposals include returning the defunded portions back to taxpayers. In fact, some states are already proposing increases in income tax rates. California is considering increasing the top personal income rate — already the highest in the nation at 13.3% — to 16.8%, retroactively to Jan. 1.
Freire says despite the high costs paid with increasing taxes for citizens and the expenses for private security, they don't have any real effect on the crime rate in both South Africa in Brazil. She's cites that about 58 people are murdered in South Africa every day and Brazil has the seventh highest murder rate in the world.
In the US there are sudden spikes of lawlessness with increasing homicide rates in cities including New York City, Houston, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Nashville.
Freire admits America’s Second Amendment makes a difference.
“Private gun ownership also plays an important role. Law-abiding Americans can defend themselves using firearms. Brazil and South Africa both have highly restrictive gun control laws.
“I do believe, however, that South Africa and Brazil provide some lessons about what life is like in a country where police are essentially absent. Ordinary citizens will have to find ways to protect themselves and their property. And if police departments are defunded, private security for the middle class will become a bigger part of life in America.”