Detroit, MI – Defunding the Detroit Police Department (DPD) would unleash a level of mayhem akin to “The Purge,” a longtime westside resident said.
Lavonn Robinson, 50, was referring to the movie franchise in which the government legalizes all crime – including murder – for a period of 12 hours every year, The Detroit News reported.
“There are good people in Detroit, but there are some really bad ones, too, and you’d have people running around doing whatever they want,” Robinson said. “I think it would be another thing that would hurt the community…It would be like ‘The Purge.’”
Detroit resident Ethan Williams, 21, said he would like to see a funding increase for police training programs, The Detroit News reported.
“It takes a lawyer years before he can practice the law, but police can go out and enforce the law after six months in the Police Academy,” Williams told the news outlet. “That shouldn’t be; they need more training, but you can’t do that if you’re defunding the police.”
Many officers have recently been reassigned from residential areas to help deal with rioting, leaving neighborhoods underserved, Deadline Detroit reported.
“We don’t have enough police as it is,” said resident Rochelle Jones, a working mother of two. “People are acting the fool out here.”
Detroit mayor Mike Duggan is adamant that the city needs “more officers on the street, not fewer,” according to The Detroit News.
“You’ve got people who are largely from outside the city coming into Detroit and saying ‘defund police,’ before going back home to the suburbs,” Duggan said.
The mayor argued that the real problem is the ineffectiveness of the city’s mental health system.
He specifically referred to the case of a gunman who was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital for mental health treatment after a July 4 standoff with police, The Detroit News reported.
He was released from the hospital just one day later.
A few weeks afterwards, he attacked police with a dagger and a sword, resulting in a fatal officer-involved shooting, The Detroit News reported.
“The mental health system is absolutely failing the community, and the police end up on the front lines dealing with it,” Duggan insisted. “Defunding the police doesn’t help fix this.”
Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson agreed that social programs need more funding in order to provide better services, The Detroit News reported.
“But you can’t do that by defunding the police,” Benson told The Detroit News. “I know that’s not what the residents of my district tell me they want.”
“They want police accountability for sure, but what they’re asking for is actually more police,” he explained. “Historically, crime is what drove people away from the city…we need to take a long, hard look at this before we start talking about defunding a police department that’s already underfunded.”
But Detroit Mayor Pro Tem Mary Sheffield has a different opinion on the matter.
Sheffield has said she would be open to finding ways to cut funding from police in order to funnel it into “programs that address the root causes of crime,” The Detroit News reported.
Cutting the DPD’s facial recognition program would be a great start, she said.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to all come out of the police budget, although we need to start having the conversation, because there’s a greater desire now more than ever to talk about how we can re-imagine policing,” Sheffield declared, according to The Detroit News.
Police Chief James Craig pointed out that the program Sheffield is most excited about eliminating has also helped the DPD to capture wanted murderers.
“If you’re saying we should invest more in programs for youth, or mental health, I 100 percent agree, but it shouldn’t be on the back of the police department,” he told The Detroit News.
Chief Craig further noted that defunding the DPD was a massive failure the last time the city tried it out in 2012.
“We already went through ‘defund the police’ when they closed precincts,” Chief Craig told The Detroit News. “That was highly unpopular with the police officers and the residents. Do they want to go through that again? I don’t think so.”
DPD has already been struggling to attract and retain officers, Deadline Detroit reported.
Half of the city’s police force has been on the job for less than five years, and the department has 20 percent fewer officers than it did in 2014.
Arrests have fallen 40 percent during the same timeframe, Deadline Detroit reported.
Meanwhile, homicides are up 25 percent compared to one year ago, and non-fatal shootings are up 30 percent.
Eighteen of the non-fatal shooting victims were children.