fb-pixel
THE ARGUMENT

Should municipalities cut police budgets and use the money to support community programs?

Read two views and vote in our online poll.

YES

Nicole McClain

Lynn resident, mother, wife, librarian, President of the North Shore Juneteenth Association

Nicole McClain
Nicole McClainNatalie Bowers

Pressure from citizens demanding reform to stop the continuous unjust and undeniable killings of Black Americans at the hands of police officers has resulted in a nationwide conversation about reallocating police funds. The focus of that discussion is and should be how we can work together to constructively achieve equal protection and service for all Americans.

Despite what you see on social media, most people calling for reallocating police funds recognize the value an effective police service offers its community. Abolishing or defunding the police is not the answer to police brutality. But reallocation can offer attractive solutions.

Advertisement



I am not an expert on policy. I am a resident of the North Shore, born and raised in Lynn. These issues concern me as a mother, wife, veteran, and Black American. Many local officials around the country have expressed support for reallocating police funds, and a good number of cities are exploring models for it. It is not the sole answer to a very complex issue but it is encouraging to see these discussions taking place.

In my view, the money we devote to policing is excessive given the chronic shortage of state and local funding for such social services as mental health, housing, and youth programs. Why not divert some police funds to support those other critical needs?

Allocating more funding to underfunded social service programming is a new approach that might protect and serve the community better than the police can, while simultaneously helping to reduce the actual crime that police have to address. This is an opportunity to change the lives of residents that are in need of social services and an opportunity for police departments to collaborate with the community on another level.

Advertisement



Communities most affected by these issues are poor, ethnically diverse, and in need of additional social services that the proposed “reallocation of funds” presents.

Reallocating some of the police budget to more apt programs could reduce the crime rate, build better relationships between police and the community, and result in a better trained, less biased police force. We all must move forward together in an agile, open-minded, and collaborative way, to identify the way forward.

NO

Scott Hovsepian

Waltham police officer; President of Massachusetts Coalition of Police

Scott Hovsepian
Scott Hovsepian

Police departments are a community program. With schools and fire departments, they enable communities to work safely, peacefully, and constructively.

The idea that the men and women who patrol your streets should no longer be involved in resolving volatile domestic disputes, engaging with troubled youths, assisting the homeless and those battling addiction find services, and meeting with church groups, school kids, or gang members is misguided and wrong. But that appears the effective goal of those seeking to reduce police budgets and redirect those funds to community programs. It would push police officers out of the mainstream and away from the people we want to protect.

Replacing police officers with social workers, youth counselors, therapists, and psychologists puts all involved at risk. We respect and admire the work of those professionals. They are our partners in serving the community. But in situations where a husband or boyfriend is violent, where threats are made and anger is just below the surface, the community needs professionals who can both counsel and take control if needed. No social service provider should walk unprotected into a home where violence may erupt. That’s not fair to the counselor, or the potential victim.

Advertisement



We embrace all our community roles. Why take them away from us? To further separate us from those we interact with daily? To push us into a corner where we only arrive when it’s time for an arrest – not before when we can help keep it from reaching that point?

We know who wants a police officer on the scene of a potential domestic violence incident, when a teen keeps turning up in the wrong places, when gang violence threatens to erupt: the potential victims, the parents, the neighbors. The communities most impacted.

Let’s be clear: The actions of some terrible police officers far from Massachusetts should be punished to the full extent of the law. The nationwide outrage is understandable and shared by all who wear the uniform professionally and with pride. But there should be no backlash that removes us from our roles as more than just arresting officers, that bars us from community service, that makes us pariahs. Enough.

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact laidler@globe.com.