Calls to “defund” police departments sound unreasonable, but I understand some are saying that they don’t really want to remove all funding and shut down the police departments. What they want is to shift some funding to social services to solve some problems and remove some of the demand for police. I think that may be a workable idea consistent with a fundamental principle of Total Quality Management:
Prevention > Correction > Compensation
I am thinking of how much police time and money are focused on preventable problems, problems for which police have no solutions, such as mentally ill persons uncared for, homeless people unemployed, teenagers unsupervised, parents untrained, criminals un-disarmed, intersections unphotographed, etc.
Surely most can agree that it would be better to prevent such problems by providing food and shelter for the mentally ill, jobs for the homeless, supervision for teens, training for parents, etc., than to have the police dispatchers continuously sending police officers to deal with the problems, usually doing nothing more than compensating for what could have been prevented.
If those problems were prevented, we would need fewer police dealing with problems for which they are unequipped to do more than correct or compensate but better trained in crime investigation and resolution. They wouldn’t be dealing with public urination and defecation, panhandling, trespassing, domestic squabbles, and fender benders. Fewer would qualify for the jobs, and salaries would be higher for those who could.
Then I started thinking about teachers, a profession most agree is underpaid and unfairly treated because they have to deal with problems and issues having little or nothing to do with teaching the subjects in which they have some expertise and experience.
Teachers have breakfast and lunch and recess duty, must attend PTA meetings, have to buy some of their own teaching supplies, and must oversee candy and card sales and other fundraising activities imposed on the students and their families. I’m guessing many teachers could add to this simple list of such distractions from their primary responsibility. Some might even claim to suffer from harassment and abuse by students.
So maybe we should also defund the teachers and tell them that the only responsibility they have is to know and teach and mentor the students in their classes with three primary goals in mind.
- Understanding of history and government
- Strong writing and speaking skills
- Adequately developed skills, and talents to enable needed contributions to society. (The Arts, STEM, Shop, Home Economics, Mechanics, Construction, etc., would all fall in Category 3.)
Teacher salaries would be based on student progress. There would be fewer teachers with much stronger qualifications and those teachers would enjoy both higher job satisfaction and higher pay as a result.
The Department of Social Services would take responsibility for all breakfast, lunch, recess, and after-school care activities, and would immediately remove from any classroom any student causing disruption of the class. That would even help the police by eliminating their unwelcome and unappreciated involvement in student discipline.
Of course all teachers would be provided with all needed classroom materials and supplies without personal cost or inconvenience.
And any increased Social Services costs could be easily funded, in the long term, because of the growth in GDP resulting from better educated and better prepared citizens.
As a matter of fact, with continued success and improvement, it would even be possible to begin defunding the Department of Social Services.
Defunding might not be such a bad idea, depending on what is meant by it. It is always better to prevent problems than to correct or compensate for them. One might reasonably argue that correction and compensation are now costing our economy about two thirds of total federal revenue in social benefits, crowding out spending on important needed infrastructure improvements. And it is getting worse. Prevention is needed.