Law enforcement, city leaders react to calls for defunding police departments

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Minneapolis City Council seems ready to defund its police department after the death of George Floyd and a long history of missteps leading up to it.

Failed attempts at reform have apparently led a majority of the city council to favor dissolving the police department and replacing it with a different model of policing. What that will be is unclear.

It has been one of the goals of the many independent chapters of Black Lives Matter, including the one in Sacramento.

“I feel it needs to happen,” said Black Lives Matter Sacramento founding member Tanya Faison.

While it may seem far-fetched to some, the mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles have announced plans to cut police budgets, putting the money into community programs instead.

Black Lives Matter supports those efforts.

“It just means that our taxpayer dollars aren’t going to be paying for these officers to criminalize us and beat us and shoot things at us,” Faison told FOX40.

“I think it’s a horrible idea for a multitude of reasons,” said former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness.

McGinness said Floyd’s killing was a terrible incident but, in the end, there need to be officers on the street to do proactive policing to head off crimes.

In addition, history has proven that active, violent situations that endanger citizens require a response from officers.

“Look at school shootings, church shootings, things of this nature where you have to have every resource that’s possibly available to overcome that level of violence,” McGinness said.

“About 1,800 calls a day come into our communications center. And so, if defunding would mean we can’t respond to some of those things, that’s pretty critical for our community,” said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn. “If there are less officers to handle that, they won’t get help in a timely manner or they won’t get help at all.”

While defunding police departments does not mean getting rid of them altogether, it does mean reallocating resources to make them work better.

Hahn said while he does believe police officers serve a vital role in the community, he also believes defunding certain functions of the department and assigning them to different agencies is a conversation that is worth having for city leaders.

“Instead of having officers respond, in many cases, it would be much better to have someone else respond,” said Hahn. “There are a lot of calls that our department handles and every department across the country handles that we shouldn’t be handling, that we don’t need to handle. A lot of mental health-related calls we flat out shouldn’t be going to. We’re not the best people to handle those calls.”  

“Obviously, we would rather be out of the mental health business altogether,” Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones told FOX40. “We’re not particularly well-equipped to deal with it, even though we’ve gotten specialized training and we’ve gotten much better at it. We would much rather be out of that business.”

“So, I do think it is a very worthy conversation and discussion to have is: How do we create systems to where other entities more qualified, mental health professionals, social workers or somebody, to respond to mental health calls that don’t involve violence?” said Hahn.

City and county leaders say that is a discussion they are open to having.

“How do you divert money from the police department to other desperately needed services in our society? The first thing you do is redefine what we expect of police officers,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

“We absolutely would look at best practices,” said Jones. “And I am wide open to all of those discussions how we can turn law enforcement issues into more mental health treatment issues.”

“Why do we expect our police officers to intervene in every imaginable, stressful circumstance in society, even if it has nothing to do with the violation of the criminal law?” asked Steinberg.

Faison said defunding police departments needs to happen if any real change is to come about.

“Any type of reform that does happen it needs to be moved into the direction of community and not into more policing,” Faison said. 

The Sacramento chapter of the NAACP called a meeting Monday to discuss defunding within local law enforcement agencies.

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