As conversations about race, inequality and police reform continue across the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Democratic state house candidate and incumbent Glen Casada challenger Elizabeth Madeira held a Facebook live discussion Thursday with Howard Garrett, a local activist and former Franklin Alderman candidate.
Titled “A Conversation on Race Relations & Millennial Leadership,” the discussion touched on the role protests hold in forcing structural change, reallocating resources towards social services and education, as well as on recent calls heard across the county to ‘defund the police.’
“When you really look into [defunding the police], it’s really not a bad thing - the title can throw you many different ways,” Garrett said. “Police budgets inflate every single year, and we could reallocate that money to invest in communities, to invest in education, to invest in social services; that will lessen crime.”
While many different interpretations exist of the phrase ‘defund the police,’ the phrase is often used as a call to reallocate police funds directly towards communities through social and mental health services.
The rationale behind reallocating police funds, Garrett argued, is that the current role of police officers has far exceeded their original intent, with many in law enforcement dealing with homelessness, mental health and medical crises.
“When we hire those police officers who are really doing their job for social justice, we won’t have these killings,” Garrett said.
“A police officer shouldn’t go and and deescalate a mental situation, they shouldn’t go and handle a medical thing because that’s not what they’re hired to do - they’re hired to protect and serve.
“We need to ensure that we’re hiring police [officers] who are really working for the job of public service. As a community, as a country, we have to break [the] system and ensure that we are investing into every single person, and ensuring that every person has the same opportunity as their neighbor.”
Madeira agreed with many of Garrett’s points, but conceded that the phrase ‘defund the police’ did not accurately portray its intended message.
“It definitely seems to me that they should have picked a different marketing term [than ‘defund the police], because I think a lot of people get scared [when they hear that],” Madeira said.
“It doesn’t seem scary to me to say ‘hey, lets try to use some of these funds to help prevent crime in the first place,’ where we’re equipping more people with mental health and social services, education and opportunities. There may be ‘hashtag defund the police,’ but that’s not the best term - it’s more like let’s also invest in the community.”