Student Opinion – Police reform is necessary, but not the kind you think
Police reform has been a topic of conversation in the United States of America for a very long time. Whether it was the deadly beating of Rodney King in the early 1990s or the recent death of George Floyd in 2020, accusations of police brutality against African Americans and other minorities has led to calls for reform to the way we do policing in our country. While something certainly needs to be done, the question of what to do looms over this debate.
Black Lives Matter captured the attention of many as it led the cry for police reform, calling to “defund the police” and shift financial resources to places like social work organizations instead. This is one of the worst things that could be done.
Many cities hopped on the “defund the police” trend after the summer of 2020. However, it wasn’t long before they had to reverse course, as according to Newsweek, huge spikes in crime forced the hand of city councils across the country.
The fatal flaw of the “defund the police” movement was that it was actually widely unpopular among the citizens of the cities where it was implemented. Shifting the resources to social workers also doesn’t help, as these workers, though very important, don’t have the training or resources to respond to the kind of emergencies they were dispatched to handle.
So, what can be done? I believe there are some policies that have been put in place and proven to be effective. Additionally, there are other measures that can be taken, but they may not be as popular with some on the right or on the left.
One measure that has been effective is requiring police officers to wear body cameras. In 2021, NPR cited a study that shows body cameras helped reduce the number of violent interactions in which police officers were engaged. While there are certainly situations that call for using more aggressive tactics, having these cameras not only helps track whether violence was necessary in a given case, but it also helps officer safety and can make training more effective.
Another needed change involves the abolition of police unions. This should be at the top of the list. Police unions have done more to help shield the “bad apples” among police officers than anything else, according to many legal scholars. These unions need to be immediately disbanded so that police stations and cities can more easily get rid of bad cops and replace them with good cops.
A third and much more controversial measure that should be implemented is an end to the “no-knock” warrant. Not only do these warrants put both officers and innocent people at risk, but they violate the Fourth Amendment right preventing unreasonable search and seizure of everyday citizens and indirectly violate the Second Amendment.
If I were to be in my home and hear someone break in at a late hour, I would take all measures necessary, including deadly force, to defend my home. However, if police officers with a “no-knock” warrant break into my house, I am putting myself at risk by simply defending my home from someone who I think is trying to hurt me. I risk jail time, injuring or killing someone I actually look up to, and even getting myself injured or killed.
For every good reform idea, there is another bad one, just like for every good cop there is a bad apple. Police reform is necessary, but we must be careful and diligent with the reforms we put in place.
Hughes is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on Twitter