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If Cities Defund Police, Camden, N.J. Might Provide Model

by Giam Pierre

 

Police reform has become a hot topic in the wake of George Floyd’s death.


 

 

Police Reform Debated Throughout Country


The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day has sparked a worldwide movement to implement police reform and address police brutality.


But the way reform will look depends on the politicians debating the issue.


The Minneapolis City Council favors defunding the Minneapolis Police Department, while Democrats in the United States House of Representatives favor less drastic measures to address alleged systemic racism within prison departments.


“The martyrdom of George Floyd gave the American experience a moment of national anguish, as we grieve for the Black Americans killed by police brutality,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).


The House has proposed a bill that would make it easier to prosecute law enforcement officials.


Additionally, the proposed bill would ban the chokehold maneuver, which has resulted in countless deaths.


At George Floyd’s memorial, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced he would sign an executive order to ban chokeholds by Houston Police Department officers.


Furthermore, the House bill would address alleged systemic racism in local police departments across the nation.


Although the bill has support in the Democratic-led House, it might face an uphill battle in the Republican-led Senate.


However, Republican lawmakers have supported some of the aforementioned initiatives in the past.


Nevertheless, President Donald Trump accused national Democrats of trying to defund police departments after many activists and members of the Minneapolis City Council spoke out in favor of defunding the police and sending some of those funds to other organizations that handle social work and mental health issues.


President Trump tweeted that “the Radical Left Democrats want to Defund and Abandon Our Police. Sorry, I want LAW & ORDER.”


If Minneapolis succeeds in disbanding its police department, it will become the largest United States city to do so.


The closest city in size to dismantle its police force is Camden, N.J.


The city, which had a reputation of violence and danger, dismantled its police force in 2012 to root out corruption, eventually bringing in a new police force.


However, the Camden Police Department did rehire 100 officers from the dismantled police force.


CNN reported, “The city’s crime rate was among the worst in the U.S. Within nine square miles and among nearly 75,000 residents, there were over 170 open-air drug markets reported in 2013…Violent crime abounded. Police corruption was at the core.


“Lawsuits filed against the department uncovered that officers routinely planted evidence on suspects, fabricated reports and committed perjury. After the corruption was exposed, courts overturned the convictions of 88 people, the ACLU reported.”


Before rooting out corruption in the police force, many residents did not have a positive relationship with local law enforcement officials.


However, that relationship has drastically changed in recent years.


Police officers knock on doors to introduce themselves to people in the community.


Law enforcement officials participate in social activities like pop-up neighborhood parties and barbecues with Camden residents, building a rapport that often leads to less tension between community and cops.


“Back then residents of Camden city absolutely feared the police department,” said Louis Cappelli, Camden County, N.J. freeholder director (or county-level public official). “(The residents) wanted that to change.”


And so did city officials.


The main goal of dismantling the old police department and launching the new police department was to reduce crime and increase the feeling of safety for the residents.


The city has succeeded.


Crime report data provided by the department shows a 42 percent decrease in violent crime over the past seven years. 


The crime rate has decreased from 79 per 1,000 to 44 per 1,000.


Cappelli believes the decrease in crime is a result of “community-oriented policing,” which emphasizes problem solving and partnership over just punishment.


On the first day as a Camden police officers, new recruits are required to knock on the doors of residents on their beat to introduce themselves and ask residents what needs improvement in the area.


The city also made a concerted effort to hire more Black and Brown officers because the city is predominantly Black.


The Camden Police Department now employs approximately 400 officers.


Cappelli said, “We want to make sure residents of the city know that these streets are theirs. They need to reclaim these streets as their own, not let drug dealers and criminals claim them.”


Despite the success in Camden, N.J., Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arrando pushed back against the City Council’s plan to defund or dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.


“As chief I am obligated to [ensure] public safety for our residents,” said Arrando. “I will not abandon that.”


Arrando said that city officials have the right to discuss the issues of police reform, but “until there is a robust plan that will protect” the residents of Minneapolis, “I will not leave them behind.”


The Minneapolis police chief told Fox News that he is working on reforms within his own police department such as an examination of use of force, the role of supervisors as well as the disciplinary process “to include both grievances and arbitration.”


Arrando wants to implement procedures that will enable the department to recognize early warning signs of misconduct.


He also acknowledged the issue of race when it comes to policing.


Arrando said, “Race is inextricably part of the American policing system. We will never evolve in this profession if we do not address it head on.”


He recognized that parts of the Minneapolis Police Department were broken when he joined the department and admitted that that brokenness had an adverse impact on minority communities, saying that, “communities of color have paid the heaviest cost, and that is with their lives.”


Nevertheless, he does not believe total disbanding of the force is necessary to achieve his goals of police reform.


“I did not abandon this department then and I will not abandon this department now,” said the police chief. “History is being written now and I am determined that we are on the right side of history.”



This article was published on Friday 12 June, 2020.
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