Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | June 10, 2020

On Defunding the Police

The protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd continue to dominate the news. In major cities across the country, large crowds gather daily to express their collective outrage at the senseless death of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police officers.

To express outrage at the death of Floyd in a peaceful manner is a responsible way for our nation to sigh and to grieve and to call attention to an injustice. Sadly, many of the protests have deteriorated into ugly expressions of anarchy that dishonor the death of George Floyd.

According to news reports, outsiders show up at demonstrations to agitate and stir up trouble. To make matters worse, opportunists also show up to loot and destroy. The toxic presence of these two groups has resulted in the wanton destruction of property and the loss of life.

Amid these ongoing protests, calls to defund police departments have grown increasingly loud. Activists who feel that reforms are not enough to address concerns about police are urging politicians to do more. Minneapolis, the city where Floyd took his final breath, is among the first cities to take steps toward defunding the police.

This week, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council committed to dismantling its police department. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey prefers to make changes but not break up his city’s embattled police force. And so a new battle now rages over the best way to protect the public.

In its most literal sense, the movement to defund is simple. It means taking funding away from police forces, many of which are already underfunded. In its broader sense, the push to defund the police is about taking money away from police departments and reallocating those funds into social programs.

Advocates for defunding argue that dollars taken away from police will yield better results if invested in community initiatives that provide more opportunities for the poor and marginalized. This would result, they assert, in less crime. Others argue that funds can be used to help communities do a better job of policing themselves.

Passionate arguments will continue to be made on both sides of this divisive issue.

Those who argue that previous reforms intended to keep police in check have not worked point to the few bad apples in the bushel as proof. Bad apples, after all, are what make the sauce of savory news. Reforms, to be sure, are needed but seldom work as quickly, consistently, and effectively as these folks would like. So, toss out the entire bushel of apples.

Proponents of defunding the police also argue that reallocating funding to address other social needs would reduce crime. MDP150 is a Minneapolis-based initiative by organizers aiming to bring “meaningful structural change” to police in the city. This group believes that shifting money away from the police and toward social needs will eventually lead to “a place where people won’t need to rob banks.”

And then there are those who fear the chaos that would result from defunding the police. While poll numbers indicate that there is strong support for police reform, they also reveal that most Americans think that cutting back on police is a bad idea. Many, however, are hopeful that the death of George Floyd will lead to reforms that restrict choke holds and encourage the police to police each other when restraining a suspect.

Regardless of what you may think about the issue of defunding the police, there is one thing that is overlooked in this debate — the heart of man. Jeremiah, one of the pre-exilic Old Testament prophets to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, had this to say (17:9): “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Therein lies the real problem. The heart is deceitful and desperately sick.

This illness was demonstrated by a cop who showed no compassion to a restrained and unarmed man who was fighting to catch his breath.

This illness was also demonstrated when a 24 year-old black man killed David Dorn, a 77 year-old retired police captain who was protecting a shop during a violent night of protests in St. Louis. Dorn was also black.

One thing is certain, no amount of legislation, reforms, or funding can fix the human heart. Jeremiah was right. The heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” And a heart that is deceitful and sick is vulnerable to evil expressions and deeds.

Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). We have seen the truth of Jesus’ words illustrated too many times to count over the past few weeks.

As a Christ-follower, I am convinced that the only remedy for a bad heart is a new heart.

Speaking to a nation in exile, the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel recorded these words of the Lord (36:26-27), “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

A person with a new heart is cleansed, forgiven, endowed with a new nature, and has a changed attitude toward sin. A person with a new heart recognizes the value of human life, all human life, regardless of pigmentation. A person with a new heart respects the dignity of others and does not act out of selfishness or empty conceit. A person with a new heart seeks to give rather than take life.

Funding or defunding the police will never lead us to “a place where people won’t need to rob banks” because you can’t fix a deceitful and sick heart with funding or defunding. William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” is worth reading again in light of current cultural events. This story illustrates what can happen when hearts that are deceitful and desperately sick rule the day.

May we look to the only One who can fix what is broken within us.


Responses

  1. I agree with this 100%, Omar. So very well said. Thank you.

  2. Completely agree with you Omar. The heart has to get fixed before anything else.

    • Amen, Dennis.

    • Exactly. Thanks once again for clear analysis and application of truth to what ails society. We are seeing some very real examples of the contrast between Christ followers and unbelievers in our world today. Praying these extremes in our world will help open eyes and soften hearts to turn to God. Praying for revival, and that God would heal our land.

      • Absolutely, Cathy. The contrast of world views is definitely on display. Praying with you for revival and healing of our land.

  3. Well written Omar. I completely agree. Great to have the biblical references that recognize that we are truly broken and we don’t all get fixed in this life. Our laws and funding of law enforcement are necessary secular requirements to deal with brokenness.

  4. Thanks Omar. You did it again… got to the heart of the problem. Now I’m going to have to find a copy of Lord of the Flies. Very good post. Like others, agree 100%.

    • Thanks, Terry. Lord of the Flies is a good read.

  5. Thanks, Omar.

  6. well said,Omar!

  7. Omar,
    Very well said. Thanks for providing much needed background and Biblical perspective.
    Howard

  8. Good thoughts Omar! Though the defund/not defund argument will play itself out in a modicum of reform, the heart of the matter is man’s heart and the rascist thoughts that are buried therein and periodically emerge. Only Jesus can change us from the inside out thru the power of the Holy Spirit.

  9. Thank you Omar for your inciteful and very thought provoking comments. You are right on in the only answer is the Lord Jesus Christ. I will continue to pray and try to live as a witness that will show Christ to the world.

    • Thank you, Joan. Appreciate your good words.

  10. Good word Omar!

  11. Well written.

  12. What a wonderful reflection. Thank you.

  13. Well said, my brother.


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