Lansing is one of several Michigan cities where citizens have been asking for tangible solutions to excessive use of force by police. City Councilman Brandon Betz says he believes the answer is a substantial reduction in police funding.
Last week, Betz proposed that the Lansing city council create a committee tasked with investigating what it might look like to defund the city’s police department by 50% over the next five years.
“Only 5% of calls responded to [by police] are violent crime. So why do we need the other 95% of the police force? That's my question, and the question that I hope we get to answer on council,” Betz said.
Calls to "defund the police" have become increasingly common in the weeks since the killing of George Floyd, but the phrase means different things to different people. To Betz, defunding the police means "a reinvestment in our community." He said that money cut from police departments should be put toward community resources, such as mental health services and support for low-income families.
"We can replace police with services and with programs that allow us to reduce our police department, in that sense, because there will be less crime,” Betz said. “It actually makes our community safer to go in this direction as opposed to having police that just respond to crimes after they've already happened."
Betz said that because Black residents and residents of color in Lansing are disproportionately affected by police brutality, the proposed committee would prioritize their voices when investigating where to reallocate funding. The ultimate goal, he said, is to make Lansing safer and more equitable for all of its citizens.
"We need our Black and brown neighbors to come out and say, 'Hey. These are the things that we need invested in so that we can change society and be a safer society,’” Betz said. “This isn't something that I have the answer to. This is something that we as a community, as an entire community in Lansing, need to come together and talk about.”
On Monday, Betz's proposal was referred to the equity, diversity, and inclusion committee for review.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Lia Baldori.