The ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to the Athens-Clarke Mayor and Commissioners supporting the budget proposal that Commissioners Parker and Denson put forward, the best and most serious effort at tackling this problem currently on the table anywhere in our state. Policing is a deeply troubled American institution, and one that has proven frustratingly resistant to reform. We need to fundamentally change the role of police in our society, and that role has to be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with taxpayer dollars.
The commissioners’ policy proposal budgets $50,000 to fund a committee to develop an implementation plan to shrink the size of the police force by 50% over 10 years, while investing the savings in social supports and more appropriate response measures to crises that do arise. The commissioners’ budget proposal will also:
deauthorize vacant officer positions
create a new co-responder unit
bring 911 dispatching under public control
create a new social work position in the Public Defender’s office
“We urge you to enact this bold, thoughtful plan, rather than accept the status quo that results in countless of dehumanizing encounters each year and which resulted in Athens-Clarke sworn officers fatally shooting six people in 2019,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “It’s time to reimagine the role, responsibilities, and presence of police officers in the everyday lives of Black and Brown people.”
Law enforcement officers are ill-equipped do a job where care is called for: over-policing communities already ravished by inequality will never solve the root causes of crime. We must disinvest in traditional, armed policing and instead reinvest those same budgetary resources in alternatives that meet the varied needs of community members before and during crises.