Do Not Defund the Police

Picture of honolulu police department headquarters

By: Jeff Todashi 

This week has seen further gun violence tragedies in the United States.  Eight people were killed in a mass murder-suicide at a Federal Express distribution center in Indianapolis.   The Chicago Police Department released the body camera videos of the April 5, 2021 fatal shooting of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy.  Daunte Wright was killed by since resigned Officer Kim Potter during a routine traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.  Potter has since been charged with second-degree manslaughter.  Wright’s shooting and ensuing demonstrations are occurring about 10 miles from the Minneapolis courtroom where former officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the death of George Floyd last year. A December 2020 video of U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino and in his Army Battle Dress Uniform, has gone viral.  Windsor, Virginia, police officers pointed guns at, pepper sprayed, and pushed Nazario to the ground during the December traffic stop. The cause for the stop was because the police officers believed the Army officer was missing a license plate on his new Sport Utility Vehicle.  Nazario has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in compensatory damages, claiming the two officers violated his rights guaranteed under the First and Fourth Amendments. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court claims the officers used excessive force during the stop.  

Hawaii is not immune the gun violence in the past week either.  Last weekend, the Honolulu Police Department endured a 10-hour standoff with a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander barricaded in the Kahala Resort.  The standoff ended when the Sailor killed himself.   Finally, the Honolulu Police Department released bodycam footage of the fatal officer-involved shooting that occurred around 8:10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Officers responded to calls of a burglary in progress in the Nuuanu area where they fatally shot 29-year-old South African native, Lindani Myeni, following an altercation at a home on Coelho Way. The bodycam footage shows the first officer responding, seeing the distraught resident who called 9-1-1 and pointing out the suspect who had been inside her home. Chief Susan Ballard said that an officer used his Taser, but it was ineffective on Myeni. The bodycam footage confirms this.  Police say the footage shows that Myeni attacked the officers and they had no choice but to take action.  The police reiterate that they did not shoot or discharge their firearms right away and that this is not a case of overreaction. All three officers involved were taken to the hospital. Two have been released and the third is still being treated for multiple facial fractures as of Friday, April 16, 2021. Honolulu police have opened an attempted murder investigation.  Although Hawaii gun violence is on average lower than the mainland, Hawaiians themselves fear gun violence on average more than their mainland neighbors.  Petty crime is on average higher in Hawaii than in the mainland.  

After the Daunte Wright’s fatal shooting, top progressive politician, Senator Bernie Sanders, publicly broke with his left-wing protégés over their calls to defund the police.  For his part, Sanders has never hopped on the Defund the Police bandwagon, instead arguing the opposite. Speaking with The New Yorker last year, Sanders was questioned about a letter he sent to then-Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer arguing that cops should be paid higher wages.  Sanders then called for police departments to have well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals. He said too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training — and he wanted to change that. This week, Sanders said he did not agree with The Squad Representatives Rashida Tlaib (Democrat-Michigan), Representatives Ilhan Omar (Democrat – Minnesota), and Ayanna Pressley (Democrat – Massachusetts) over her call for no more policing, incarceration, and militarization after Daunte Wright’s killing. 

Last weekend, before Daunte Wright’s killing and the Indianapolis mass murder, veteran Democratic operative James Carville blasted the Defund the Police movement — calling it a terrible drag on the Democratic party.  Carville expressed concern about the outcomes of future elections due the Democratic Party’s focus on identity politics and cancel culture.  Carville said that they’re always trying to get somebody fired; they’re outraged at somebody all the time; and it just wears people down because it does not represent real life experiences. 58 percent of American adults or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime. 

When you look at where the most gun violence occurs in the United States currently, predominantly these areas are either long historically or currently Democrat lead – Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Indianapolis.  Hawaii too, is historically Democrat lead.  Given Susan Ballard’s resignation, the gun violence on the mainland, and our too being a Democrat lead state, makes me worry about a rise in gun violence in the state.  When you have veteran police officers pulling a taser instead of a pistol and shooting someone during a routine traffic stop, it is either an issue of leadership, stress, training, or it could be racism. It is probably the earlier three more than it is the latter.  When you can only afford so many cops to begin with, you cannot pull them off the line for habitual training and even psychological evaluation that keeps them mentally able to do their jobs.  Military personnel get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and so do police officers, firefighters, medical personnel, lawyers, and even clergy.  Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after a very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.  A police officer, though a living, thinking, and breathing human being, must be constantly maintained and evaluated.  The guns do not fire by themselves.  A human being must pull the trigger.  We must ensure that the person wielding the gun is mentally stable, not a racist, not emotionally calloused from previous traumas, not on power trips, and are thoroughly trained for those inevitable, horrific moments where they will make life changing decisions in a matter of seconds.  13-year-old Adam Toldeo was shot in less than 2 seconds of his displaying a pistol.  

Defunding the police makes our officers and departments even less ready to deal with the growing pressures they are facing.  Additionally, officers are being trained to rush into situations to prevent more people from being shot.  Time is critical when mass shootings are underway.  Historically, police cordoned areas, and stand-offs ensued.  Not anymore.  Cordoning off a mass shooting and waiting for back-up leads to more dead victims.  More training potentially could reveal when officers have more time to peacefully resolve a situation, such as was attempted at Kahala Resorts last weekend.  We also have to educate Hawaii drivers and students.  Once parents often taught children to respect people in uniform.  Given all the tragedies, the Woke and cancel cultures, people in uniform are being looked at as the enemy.  Part of driver’s education should include how to react when pulled over by the police or what to do during random sobriety stops.  There are numerous opportunities to decrease gun violence and to de-escalate the growing tensions between the police and the community.  Defunding the police is not one of them.