Opinion | Reform instead of defund

We need practical solutions for dealing with crime.


Gabby Drees

An Iowa City Police car is seen near the Iowa City Police Department in Iowa City Monday, Nov. 1, 2021.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

Activists concerned about police funding continue to flounder in their quest to cut police budgets because they fail to realize that their strategy is getting them nowhere.

Instead, activists need to work with local policymakers and advocate for a holistic approach to public safety that reforms — not defunds — law enforcement and revamps education policy to help students most susceptible to criminal activity.

When discussing police budgets, a false binary is presented by some of the more policy-minded activists. Often, they argue that resources are finite, and money needs to be shifted from police departments to the school district and public works projects.

However, this argument fails to consider that there are alternative ways to increase funding for these departments while not cutting funding for public safety.

The city uses property taxes to fund the school district and gets much of its money for public works projects from the state and federal government. To ensure that Iowa City continues to obtain the necessary funding to improve public education and utilities programs, activists should be more concerned about electing politicians to the statehouse and Congress.

Electing representatives that would be interested in funding cities is more feasible than the current position of defunding or abolishing the police. This is because the activist position is difficult to implement and could have negative implications for crime in Iowa City.

Most of the city council members were elected on positions that were skeptical of the defund movement and have voted against activists preferred positions. Furthermore, even if there is a successful measure that ends up cutting police funding in Iowa City, the crime rate in the city could increase.

There has been persistent documentation that shows when there are less police officers in a police force, productivity decreases, which contributes to soaring crime rates.

Alternatively, pushing for police reforms that increase the educational requirements for officers is needed. One only needs a high school diploma to join the force. Making it so that prospective officers having at least a four year degree in a field such as sociology or psychology could make it so that our officers are better equipped to deal with problems.

An additional reform that is necessary is to make police officers conduct their patrols on foot. Foot patrols have been found to reduce violent confrontations between officers and community members while also serving as an effective deterrent against crime.

Of course, police reform is only part of the equation. To address the root causes of crime, the school system needs to play an important role. In schools that primarily serve at-risk students, starting the school day late and ending it in the evening could potentially allow these students to stay off the streets and focus more time on improving education.

For vulnerable elementary schoolers, we should stop moving kids up grade levels based on age and instead focus on honing their basic math and reading skills. The elementary school age is a critical juncture in a child’s life as if they do not read at their grade level by fourth grade, a student will be much more likely to commit a crime.

Policies such as implementing a phonics based curriculum and providing extended tuition could give at-risk children the opportunity to live fulfilling lives.

The question of dealing with crime is not an easy one. Crime is a phenomena that researchers still voraciously debate over. However, we do know that messing with budgets is not going to solve crime.