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Wants change in city spending

To the editor:

I am not shocked that a publication which continued to openly endorse congressman Steve King as recently as two years ago would use fear mongering to promote their political agenda. Claiming that calls to reform police departments through better allocation of funds is due to “political correctness that addles our brains” is reckless and irresponsible. The current system of overfunded and militarized police departments has enabled ongoing brutality against people of color in America, and simply dismissing this call to action as a “tiny minority of police officers guilty of brutality” makes it clear that you are either unable or unwilling to recognize the scope of this issue.

By attempting to invoke fear from your readers at the idea of reducing police funding you’re falling into the same fallacy you accuse politicians of using in your article–you are “avoiding the difficult work of actually addressing the problem.” Your lazily contrived argument assumes that the police are a catch all for all the complex issues which face any city. Part of the problem that the movement is trying to address is police departments are asked to do far too much and forced to respond to issues they are unqualified to fix. Throwing money at police departments in the name of public safety is an easy way to score political points with police unions, but does little to help those the police are asked to protect and serve.

According to the 2019 audit of the city budget, Fort Dodge spent $10.7M on “Public Safety” which was a 13% increase from the previous year. Over that same year, the city cut spending for public health and social services by 81% down to $110K. We are spending 100 times more on public safety than public health, and because of that decision it makes sense that the rate of sexually transmitted infection in Webster County is nearly double the state average. Luckily, since we spend so much on public safety, Fort Dodge must be one of the safest cities in Iowa, right?

Unfortunately, no, the rate of violent crimes in Webster County is nearly double the state average as well. Is it possible that blindly funding and militarizing police departments doesn’t address actual problems within a community? You state that if police funding is reduced it would “be a gift to criminals of all stripes,” but current police funding has done little to prevent crime. Instead, it has created a society where innocent American citizens live in fear, not of violent criminals, but of the brutality of those sworn to protect them.

Defunding police departments is not meant to disrespect officers of the law or say that their role in our society is not important. If we truly want to show respect to our police officers, we will stop asking them to do so much. Because we give them so much money, it makes it easy for state and local leaders to ask police officers to fix all the problems in their constituency. This system is not working, and it is especially not working for the black community and other people of color.

Redirecting funding to public health or education, areas where the “financial rug” is consistently ripped out from underneath them would do far more to prevent crime than buying military equipment for police officers. The Fort Dodge Community School District ranked 306th out of 319 districts across the state based on test scores last year. If we invested more money into education, we would have less crime, less disease, and certainly better editorial articles in the local newspaper.

Keegan Jones

Fort Dodge

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