Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said recent proposals calling for the defunding and dismantling of police departments would have disastrous consequences if implemented.
Since the May 25 Minneapolis police killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, mass protests against police misconduct have taken place in cities throughout the nation. Some advocacy groups, such as Black Lives Matter, have called for the defunding of police departments and diverting resources to impoverished communities. A supermajority of Minneapolis City Council members have said they will vote to both defund and dismantle the city’s police department. In 2013, Camden, N.J., dismantled and rebuilt its police department. It is the only U.S. city that to have done that.
“I think that’s a dangerous conversation to have. I think it’s terrible,” Jenkins, a Republican, who has been in office for more than a decade and who has more than 250,000 constituents, told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“When you view the role of law enforcement in society it really is a dangerous thing to talk about even. So, I don’t think it’s realistic. Honestly, I think right now it’s become a part of a political wedge-maybe a calling for that by certain forces to try to quell this problem. But defunding or eliminating police is not the answer.”
Jenkins illustrated an example of why defunding the police would be problematic.
“The first time someone from the public calls 911 and nobody’s there to respond its gonna change the whole landscape.”
Jenkins said defunding the police would lead to an increase in crime.
“I do believe crime would spike because the bad element would know there’s no one there to respond to the incident, to investigate. So, yes, I do believe it (crime) would increase.”
However, he said increased dialogue between protestors and law enforcement is badly needed.
“I wish all the groups and the organizations that are involved in this would find a way to sit down with law enforcement leaders and have these conversations about what could be done…We’ve got to make this work. We can’t eliminate and defund police. It’s just not realistic.”
Former Rep. Albert Wynn, like Jenkins, said he opposes defunding and dismantling police departments. However, Wynn went on to say that he favors reallocating some department funds back to local communities to address the “root causes” of crime.
“I think police play an important role. I think money needs to be reallocated to more direct assistance for low-income communities. There’s a lot of semantics going on when people say ‘defund.’ Some people mean abolish. Other people mean reallocate funds.”
Wynn, a Democrat, who served in Congress from 1993-2008, said police officers should undergo a rigorous screening process.
“Funds out to be allocated for screening police officers before they come into the training process and before they go out into the street. And while they’re on the street, because of part of this is identifying individuals who should not be police officers. They’re not temperamentally suited to be police officers. They carry certain biases with them. Whatever the case may be.”
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) declined to take a stance on defunding the police. However, McCray did say that the Baltimore City Council should closely scrutinize the annual budget for the city’s police department.
“I hope that the Baltimore City Council, the city council president, and the mayor-when they’re in negotiations on the budget that’s in front of them at this moment that they take a hard look at what measures are preventative-in making sure that we protect things like recreations centers, education opportunities, health, mental health opportunities-so that people won’t be in the penal system to even have an increased police budget.
“And, while they’re doing that and protecting those actions and priorities…that they take a look and make sure that every dollar that’s appropriated to the police department absolutely needs to be appropriated to the police department and cut those dollars that don’t.”