Opinion by Ed Musgrove: The case against defunding the police

For 25 years I served as a sheriff’s deputy in San Diego County, the final three years as a sheriff’s captain. I’ve seen a lot during my time.

There’s a feeling that’s sweeping across the country that defunding the police will resolve dissatisfaction in some communities with selected, local policing agencies. The men and women of law enforcement represent their communities. Whether they live in the city they patrol or a neighboring community, they are selected, hired, trained and evaluated by leaders of the communities they serve. Before decisions that affect public safety as a whole are made, consider the job of law enforcement in 2020.

Part of being a police officer often means being called on to resolve matters that are not related to enforcement of the law. Kids that won’t clean their rooms, rental payments that are late, neighbor disputes over unmown lawns, private property parking disputes. Officers and deputies respond to diffuse issues so they don’t become criminal enforcement matters. Why are they sent to these calls? Because there are no public agencies that specifically represent the community’s desire for intervention.

Before we as a community start the process of defunding or dismantling a policing agency, we need to clearly and critically consider what we expect from our local government. Do we want a responder and in what capacity? In my 25 plus years as a law enforcement officer in San Diego County, I responded to all these non-criminal calls and many others. I would wonder why I was called, but in the end, the answer was always the same – there are no agencies to respond on short notice to ensure the situation would not escalate to a criminal matter.

Any community that starts the debate on defunding/dismantling their policing should start with the fundamental question of what services they want and expect from law enforcement?

I still talk to many of my former colleagues, who are worried about what the future of law enforcement might hold. A future where law enforcement is not trusted by the community they serve. Where those who break the law are given more freedom than those who try and uphold it. Always knowing that officers and deputies are members of the community and have sworn an oath to serve, protect and enforce the will of the community using the laws our elected representatives have passed.

I completely condemn the killing of George Floyd. The officers’ actions and failures to act were inexcusable. While Floyd was not allowed his day in court, the officers involved must be held accountable by the justice system they denied Floyd. Every case of police misconduct should be taken seriously, investigated, and addressed. These few bad actors don’t represent the entirety of law enforcement.

When I retired from law enforcement, I was left with a choice; what to do? I worked in non-profit and public agencies to improve their security and safety protocols and procedures. I currently teach at a local police academy and stress the importance to the cadets the importance of service to the community – that they are part of the communities they will serve.

Ultimately, the events in recent years, and tensions that are now the focus of our country, left me with a clear answer. I’m now running for City Council in San Marcos. I want to work to reinforce the trust our community has in our law enforcement officers. The same ones who put their lives on the line every day to protect our community and give us that peace of mind we all desire.

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