In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the calls from Black Lives Matter activists, privileged celebrities, and elected Democrats at the local, state, and national levels to “defund the police” have gotten louder. In Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died after now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, the Democrat-majority city council is formulating plans to “dismantle” police departments, with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on board as an enthusiastic supporter.
But in the midst of such calls have also come voices of reason, counter-points from people who understand that defunding the police is not the answer, and who believe that reforming the system is a much better approach than disbanding it altogether.
George Floyd’s family members have been among those saying that police departments and the communities they serve can coexist together, that police should still be able to do their jobs provided there changes are made in police procedures and how they treat people in their custody so that what happened to Floyd doesn’t happen to someone else.
Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd, their cousin Shareeduh Tate, and family attorney Benjamin Crump appeared on Fox News on Sunday to talk about the George Floyd case and how they wanted justice for Floyd. During the interview, they were asked about the movement to defund the police. Floyd and Crump both pushed back on the calls:
George Floyd’s brother Philonise spoke out against the growing movement to defund the police on Sunday, telling Fox News’ Arthel Neville that officers can do their jobs “and still maintain respect for others.”
“What I would like is for all police around America to get their jobs and do them the right way, the correct way. Innocent people shouldn’t have to die,” Philonise Floyd said on “America’s News HQ.” “You can do your job and still maintain respect for others.”
Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump told Neville that the push to defund police departments “has not come from Philonise Floyd’s family or anybody working with us.”
“We want to try to work to say we need to do restructuring and we need to work together and in concert to try to solve this problem,” Crump explained. “This is not a black problem. This is not a white problem. This is an American problem, and the only way we can heal this country is by working together.”
During the same interview, Philonise Floyd also talked about he call “the key” instrument for instituting change: the ballot box. He noted in so many words that the biggest changes can start at the local level in mayoral races, races for city council, and elections at the state level.
George Floyd’s brother Terrence spoke out earlier this month against the rioting and looting that was taking place in the aftermath of his brother’s death, saying it’s not what Floyd was about and not what the family wanted:
EXCLUSIVE: George Floyd’s brother Terrence says he feels like violent protests are “overshadowing what is going on because he was about peace …. [this is] destructive unity. That’s not what he was about.” https://t.co/we0hSARItv pic.twitter.com/ko8aT2MiWo— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 1, 2020
This family has shown extraordinary grace and poise in the midst of their grief. I really hope that Democratic politicians who have called for defunding the police but who are not fully wedded the idea will listen and learn from what family members are saying before deciding which way to vote on police reform packages.
I understand the urge to “do something” in the aftermath of tragedy but crafting legislation based on emotions is not the way to go about it and can have equally disastrous consequences on down the road.