Outraged person on Facebook: How dare you try to take money away from the police force!
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Don’t say it.
Me: Where’s your outrage for taking money away from education?
Why are white people so angry at taking money away from the police? And why aren’t they equally outraged at taking money away from education? And why am I comparing these two seemingly unlike fields?
While this is a complicated matter (major understatement, I’m aware), I’m sure I’ll manage to leave out important points, and I might lose sight of my goal during this post, consider this: White Americans feel threatened by taking money away from a system pervaded with racism and violence that’s staffed with undereducated men while looking the other way when taking money away from a field that possesses all the tools to help combat racism and violence that’s staffed with educated women.
(Is there racism in education as well? Yes. Does it need to be addressed? Yes.)
Now before your outrage seeps into your fingers and makes you angrily pound out a vitriolic missive, hear me out.
Yes, policing is an important part of keeping our country safe, but it needs massive reform and:
Why do we as a country keep putting undereducated men in positions of power and paying them more money than women who have bachelor degrees?
- Police officers are overwhelmingly male, comprising 87.4 percent of all officers (https://www.statista.com/statistics/195324/gender-distribution-of-full-time-law-enforcement-employees-in-the-us/) and on average make $69,036 per year (https://datausa.io/profile/soc/333050). And according to Policefoundation.org (https://www.policefoundation.org/study-examines-higher-education-in-policing/#:~:text=About%20one%20third%20(30.2%20percent,percent%20have%20a%20graduate%20degree.), “About one third (30.2 percent) of police officers in the United States have a four-year college degree. A little more than half (51.8 percent) have a two-year degree, while 5.4 percent have a graduate degree.” So 18 percent of police officers have no formal post-secondary education. Often police forces require at least a two-year degree but that degree can be waived if potential officers have spent a year or two in the military. White officers make up 77.1 percent of all police officers in the country as well (https://datausa.io/profile/soc/police-officers).
- In comparison, let’s take a look at education and teachers. Female teachers account for 76 percent of the field, and teachers holding a bachelor’s degree make a base average salary of $49,900 (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_clr.asp#:~:text=About%2076%20percent%20of%20public,school%20level%20(36%20percent).). Furthermore, all certified teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree. And 79 percent of all public school teachers are white (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_clr.asp#:~:text=In%202017%E2%80%9318%2C%20about%2079,1%20percent%20of%20public%20school).
Why does all of this matter?
- Teaching, a female-dominated field, requires more education but pays less money than being a police officer does. Why? Why? Why? (Do not throw the because teachers get the summer off argument at me. Let’s say a teacher spends five extra hours working a week outside of school during the school year. That’s 180 hours they’re not paid for–that’s an entire month of working without pay. That’s half of summer break right there. Then there are the trainings, conferences, and planning that teachers are not compensated for over the summer as well.) Also could you imagine an in-lieu-of-a-four-year-degree clause in the teaching field like there is a waiver for post-secondary education in the police force? In the police force, military experience is substituted. What would the equivalent of that waiver be in education? Observation hours? Student teaching experience? Those are already requirements for the degree . . . Also, studies show that the more of an education that a police officer has the less likely the officer is to “resort to force” (http://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow-daily/us-police-education-levels-and-the-use-force.)
- Does the outrage over taking money away from police departments stem from white, undereducated men feeling threatened that their good-paying jobs are going to be taken away? Does the outrage over taking money away threaten masculinity and the glorification of a violent, powerful male ideal? Is the simple answer to the outrage’s source that it’s a field dominated by men? Is the simple answer to the lack of outrage at education losing funding that it’s a field dominated by women? And all of this is further compounded by systemic racism, white privilege, police brutality, and individual racism. I guess the answer isn’t so simple is it?
- Do teachers work overtime? Yes. Do the vast majority of them get paid for it? No. Do cops work overtime? Yes. Do they get paid for it? Yes. Why? Because men would never stand for unpaid work because society doesn’t expect it of them. Go back to my point in the first bullet.
- Or maybe it all comes down to fear of more violent crime if some money is taken away from the police. Despite what you might think, “the violent crime rate has plunged by more than 50 percent since the highwater mark of the early 1990s” (https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/09/30/new-fbi-data-violent-crime-still-falling). In 2018, there were 23.2 violent crimes per 1,000 people compared to 79.8 in 1993 (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank//2019/10/17/facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/). It is safer overall in America than it was almost 30 years ago. [Sidebar: but do you know what the only violent crime that is on an upward trend since 2012 is? Rape. (https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/09/30/new-fbi-data-violent-crime-still-falling). Chew. On. That. For. A. Minute.]
- What is the harm in reforming the police system and holding police officers to a higher standard in an effort to get rid of racism and brutality? Education goes through reform all of the time. Not only does more work need to be done to reform education, but more work needs to directly address the racism built into its institutions as well. Educational policies, practices, and standards are not static, and the police force’s shouldn’t be either.