Arianna, who has been an active participant in protests for justice for her uncle, was in her front bedroom when gunfire erupted just before 3 AM. “My daughter jumped up and said, ‘Daddy, I’ve been hit’ and I was shocked until I seen the blood and I realized my 4-year-old daughter was really hit,” her father, Derrick Delane, told KTRK. “She didn’t know what was going on. She was asleep.”
He said the child’s mother drove her to a local hospital, where she went into surgery. Police have not yet identified a suspect or a motive in the incident. In his statement, Finner went on to ask for the city’s prayers for the child’s recovery and its help in providing information that leads to an arrest.
Arianna is blessed in that she is recovering from what could have been a tragic situation that police appeared to be all but absent in trying to prevent. Lagging response times are the rule, not the exception. It takes six minutes—some 33 seconds longer than it did three years ago—for a Houston police officer to arrive in response to a life-threatening emergency, KTRK reported in November. When police responses to all types of 911 calls are averaged and compared, that increase jumps to a 19-minute average, pushing response times to nearly one hour compared to three years ago.
To be fair, the point of KTRK’s story wasn’t that police are twiddling their thumbs while innocent people die, and that’s not the argument I’m making either. Police departments are dealing with more turnover, dwindling interest, and as was the case in Houston, pay incentives to quit. But unlike the former sergeant quoted in the story, John Yencha, I tend to believe that the defund the police movement offers an important suggestion that could help relieve officers of having to solve problems that are simply outside of their scope of work. The movement calls for cities to reallocate a portion of police budgets to preventative and mental health services, in effect relieving officers of having to provide those services alone in emergency situations.
The city of Rochester, New York, decreased its $95 million policing budget by 4% or $3.8 million in 2020, and then the city slashed the budget by $4.5 million the next year. A sliver of the money, $130,000, was taken from police overtime and reallocated to youth services, and a large portion went to funding a “person in crisis” team that dispatches staffers who work in mental and behavioral health with officers on police calls involving someone suffering a mental health crisis.
“I’m from this community, and people from this community have spoken after they saw how police treated Daniel Prude. That’s what birthed our program,” Dre Johnson, a social worker on the city’s new crisis team, told the Independent. “I don’t think it’s taking a shot at the police to say that people weren’t happy with the responses they were getting when it came to mental health, or substance abuse and homelessness. There was a void and we’re filling that void.”
How many lives could be saved if cities made the revolutionary decision to stop doing more of the same in the name of public safety? What would happen if police were forced through budget cuts to stop prioritizing traffic stops and fare evasion?