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TEXAS VIEW: Pledge easy, but policing issues aren’t - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: Pledge easy, but policing issues aren’t

THE POINT: Law enforcement is vital to the health and safety of a community, but it’s not the only factor.

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Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 2:30 am

Recently, Gov. Greg Abbott did not challenge all Texas political candidates to sign a pledge that they’d back hungry children.

He didn’t ask them to pledge to back the state’s uninsured. He didn’t ask them to pledge to support firemen, nor did he ask that they support essential workers.

There are thousands of groups the governor could have asked all political candidates to back. But it was only police officers for whom Abbott asked for pledges of support, because unlike hungry children, the uninsured, firemen and essential workers, it’s police officers who serve Abbott’s immediate political purposes.

At a “Back the Blue” press conference, Abbott signed a pledge that reads:

“I sign this Texas Backs the Blue Pledge to oppose any efforts to defund the police and to show my support for the brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect and serve. Defunding our police departments would invite crime into our communities and put people in danger. That is why I pledge to support any measure that discourages or stops efforts to defund police departments in Texas.

“Our law enforcement officers have our backs every single day, and we need to show them that Texans have their backs.


This is a version of a pledge sponsored by Heritage Action, a Washington-based conservative advocacy group.

The mass protests for racial justice that began with George Floyd’s death are a movement for reforming policing, not abolishing police departments.

As we’ve noted before, “defunding” isn’t the best word for the goal of reallocating funds away from the police and toward programs and other city departments that would better serve communities while freeing up the police to concentrate on public safety.

Municipalities across the state are struggling with how best to balance police reform, address the rising need of their residents for services and be more efficient in use of their resources within the restraints of tightening budgets.

In response, Abbott and other top Texas elected leaders have chosen to demagogue any reduction of funding to police departments and threaten local governments with punitive action, such as legislation that would freeze the property tax rates of cities.

Of the $150 million that Austin cut from its police department in August, $130 million was either the transfer from the department of civilian duties — such as forensic, as well as victims and support services to other departments — or funding toward alternative forms of public safety.

In a recent video posted to social media, Abbott said defunding the police “invites crime into our communities, and it threatens the safety of all Texans.”

Will Austin’s plan work? We don’t know. But if voters in Austin are unhappy with this decision, then they can elect new public officials. That’s the beauty of local control.

These are complex issues, requiring nuanced thinking, discussion and creative solutions, not “you’re either for or against us” attacks or gimmicks like signing pledges in the middle of an election.

Law enforcement is vital to the health and safety of a community, but it’s not the only factor. And there are also many instances when law enforcement may not be the appropriate or best response to a crisis. Consider the tragic case here of Damian Lamar Daniels, who was in mental distress but was killed in a confrontation with Bexar County deputies. Would a social worker been better suited for such a call?

It’s a fair question, not one that implies a lack of support for law enforcement. Signing a pledge is easy. Guiding a nuanced discussion about law enforcement and community safety is hard work.

Odessa, TX

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