Increasing police presence isn't the answer. Here's why.
By Erica Veal
Councilman Griffin says, “we can do much better than cutting 150 police personnel,” and that “we owe it to our community to come up with a much better plan than that.” If that is the case, what is his plan?
On July 26, The Post and Courier publishedcommentaryby Charleston City Councilman Harry Griffin in which he responded to a Lowcountry Action Committeecampaigncalling for reallocating 25% of the City of Charleston’s law enforcement budget to the community (in response to the Charleston Police Department’sannouncementof increased policing following a July 17th homicide on the peninsula).
Councilman Griffin said the increased police presence was long overdue, suggesting he believes in thepopular myththat more police equal less crime. He went on to say that 25% of the City’s police budget is equal to about $13 million and reallocating that amount of money would mean eliminating at least 150 sworn officers from an organization that is already short-staffed by 50 officers. This, he said, would be devastating and result in chaos. If defunding the police is devastating and chaotic, how would Councilman Griffin describe the egregious record of police misconduct, racial profiling, excessive use of force, and violence against Black, brown, poor and disabled citizens that mars the city’s history? Those who are subject to such police crimes might also call it devastating and chaotic.
On one hand, Councilman Griffin says he “wholeheartedly supports education and investing in social and economic programs,” and the need to “address the lack of affordable housing, the need for better education and improved health services in impoverished communities.” However, it seems as if he can’t envision a society in which the role of law enforcement is reduced. Councilman Griffin says, “we can do much better than cutting 150 police personnel,” and that “we owe it to our community to come up with a much better plan than that.” If that is the case, what is his plan?
Improving the quality of life for all Charleston residents is what the community needs, not more police.
Organizers with the Lowcountry Action Committee took concrete suggestions straight from"The Report on Racial Disparities in Charleston County, 2000-2015”for addressing issues facing the Charleston community. Using the policy recommendations in the disparities report as the basis for their campaign, the Lowcountry Action Committee suggests using that $13 million to invest in things like raising the minimum wage to $15, enhancing unemployment for seasonal workers, establishing summer employment programs for low-income teens, investing in learning programs that extend beyond the regular school day, addressing barriers to transportation, reforming school disciplinary procedures — especially the “disturbing school” law and other policies and procedures that disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), just to name a few.
During last week’s Charleston City Council meeting, it was noted that it would cost $12 million to clean up Gadsden Creek. Defunding the Charleston Police Department by 25% over the course of the next few years and reallocating that money directly to improving Gadsden Green and Gadsden Creek is another concrete way in which to adequately address the needs of the city’s most marginalized. Instead of this, however, the Charleston Housing Authority is set to donate two apartments from the Gadsden Green community to the police department for use as anew police substation,despite the fact that the city is in the middle of a housing crisis.
Improving the quality of life for all Charleston residents is what the community needs, not more police. This is based on fact and not opinion.