CORAL SPRINGS, FL - National tragedies stemming from overzealous policing have sparked conversations about what public safety should look like across the nation. In Coral Springs, city officials, activists, and residents have made it clear that police brutality is unacceptable and that over-policing has failed to make our community safer or more just. For public safety in Coral Springs to reflect our values, demands to evolve how we approach policing, and the allocation of city funds necessary to support that shift, is a vital step forward.
Police in our city are often called to address petty crime -- to break up loud parties, diffuse petty neighbor disputes, and manage instances of drug use and mental health emergencies. Not unlike cities across our country, officers’ time and energy are sometimes spent moving the homeless from street corners and arresting children for disruptive behaviors which should be handled by school administrators. Americans have come to expect that law enforcement will solve all problems at all times, regardless of whether this approach is effective or humane. But, to sustain the health and welfare of our communities, we must begin addressing how policing is not the most constructive solution to solving our most pressing social problems. This realization is propelling a reckoning about the need to reallocate funds toward public education, healthcare, job training, and affordable housing -- solutions that have been proven to position communities to thrive.
The movement to shift public dollars toward a holistic approach to confronting the complex issues faced by everyday Americans has now been co-opted by those with an explicit interest in maintaining the failed policies of over-policing. And our residents flip this bill -- every day. Funding community-based resources to allow Coral Springs to advance the economic well-being of our residents so that they too can pursue the American dream shouldn’t be controversial. But, the misrepresentation of defunding police budgets is purposeful -- intended to detract from its real intent and meaning. ‘Defund the Police” has become a deceptive misnomer. This political theater is performed to the detriment of those whose tax dollars are being spent frivolously to turn poverty, mental illness and identity into a crime. Failing to see the correlation between how we use city funds and the outcomes we all have witnessed has resulted in budget shortfalls in areas of social reform that only ensure police dependency. Contrary to what we’ve been conditioned to believe, over-inflated police budgets do not make us safer.
‘Defunding the police’ does not mean police officers won’t be provided the resources they need to carry out their work. It does not mean that the efforts of law enforcement should go unappreciated or that their service should be looked at with disdain. Conversely, providing a clearer set of responsibilities with a more appropriate budget will enhance the respect police officers receive by allowing officers to work more effectively as we all help to build the kind of city we wish to live in. ‘Defunding the police’ means funding Coral Springs more holistically. It means officers won’t replace our city’s social workers, medical professionals and teachers. It means expanding the use of community mediation and violence interruption programs. It means recognizing the failures of over-policing and mass incarceration to promote a false sense of public safety. It means prioritizing rehabilitation, not punishment for the social ills that plague our society or the unfortunate role law enforcement has come to play in the day-to-day lives of the most vulnerable among us.
Re-envisioning the role of police in Coral Springs does not only mean that we must shift public dollars to methods that address systemic social issues. It means advancing fairness and more just outcomes that benefit everyone. Cultivating greater accountability and implementing proactive measures to prevent crime of all kinds from happening in the first place must be our focus. True police reform seeks to mitigate harm and account for the humanity of every single resident in our city.
This moment in our history is unique. We have an opportunity to rebuild a failing system while using hard-earned tax dollars to enhance every facet of our community-life. Coral Springs has an unprecedented opportunity to allocate our finite resources strategically, with an eye toward building a sustainable and safer future for our city. So, let us begin to fund the kind of community we all would like our families to live in. Funding Coral Springs should be centered on the issues that make us even more proud to live here. And it starts with your support.
Editor’s note: Nancy Metayer is a candidate for Seat 3 in the Coral Springs City Commission election on Nov. 3.