PHOTO CREDIT: KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER
Eliminating police forces, the most extreme form of the police defunding movement, may significantly compromise public safety. So concluded two scholars who studied Seattle's decision to close a police precinct during disturbances after George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
A more prudent solution would have been to more effectively engage with protestors to quell the violent activity, write Eric Piza of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Nathan Connealy of the University of Tampa in Criminology & Public Policy.
Police agencies facing large public protests may be able to prevent escalation by using effective crowd control tactics from the onset, Piza and Connealy say.
The study points to the need for police agencies to increase their internal capacity for effective protest control, the authors write, calling the lack of preparation "a key gap in current practice, as U.S. police agencies widely differ in terms of their preparedness for protest events."
The Seattle situation involved a local effort called CHOP -- Capitol Hill Occupation Protest -- which took over the six-block area abandoned by police. Piza and Connealy called the episode "the first manifestation of police abolition at the neighborhood level."
As a result of that move by the police department, "significant crime increases can be expected," the study says. It says the crime rise was "particularly noteworthy given the retreat of police from the area theoretically made it more challenging for crimes to be reported by citizens and/or proactively discovered by officers."
Alluding to advocates of "de-funding" the police who argue for shifting police resources to social services, Piza and Connealy say that "may have little impact on the magnitude of social service spending ... a prudent solution may be funding mechanisms that simultaneously support the evidence-based crime prevention work of police and community-based institutions ... as well as enacting the types of housing and education policies that allow urban neighborhoods to thrive."
In Seattle, police abandoned its East Precinct on June 8, 2020. The occupation of the area by CHOP lasted until July 1. In that period, police did not patrol in the area an did not respond to calls for police service.