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Seattle protest, police reform
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Ross: Would defunding the police actually work?

Seattle police downtown Wednesday. (Nicole Jennings, KIRO Radio)

Last night there was a new demand at one of the George Floyd protests in Seattle, calling to defund the police.

Defund the police. The chant didn’t seem to catch on, but it refers to this idea that we’ve tried to reform the police – everything from teaching de-escalation to requiring body cams, and nothing works.

So instead, you just need to cut their budget.

Stop spending money on military-style equipment, don’t hire as many cops. Stop arresting people for non-violent crimes like passing counterfeit bills and treat it like a traffic ticket.

And then take the money you save and spend it instead on more mental health treatment, more social programs – the argument claims that you will see crime go down, even with fewer police.

I should point out that statistics show police use of force has actually been dropping. There is also research showing that what actually reduces crime is more cops on the beat, not so they can make more arrests – it’s just the visible police presence that tends to spook criminals.

But it’s obvious this is no time to be quoting statistics.

Ultimately, I think they only way to know what works is to try it. Go by zip code. Zip codes that vote for cops get cops; those that don’t want cops can recruit volunteers to police their own streets. We’ll see who gets looted and who doesn’t.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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