Civil discourse prioritized during Braver Angels debate on police funding

The Baylor in Washington program hosted a Braver Angels debate on whether local governments should defund their police departments, allowing students to provide their views and answer questions in a structured environment. Audrey La | Photographer

By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer

Baylor in Washington hosted a Braver Angels debate on Thursday evening. The debate centered around whether local governments should defund the police and was moderated with civil discourse in mind.

The rules of the debate were outlined by Braver Angels media editor Luke Nathan Phillips. Phillips said that speakers would come up and share their views; then, there would be time for two questions from audience members. Phillips said that when asking questions, audience members had to address him as “Mr. Chair” and refer to the person who just shared their opinion as “the speaker.”

The topic of the debate was a hypothetical resolution that local governments should defund the police. Students went back and forth sharing either an affirmative or an opposing view.

Hewitt graduate student Caitlin Maples argued for defunding the police and reallocating the funds to social workers and mental healthcare workers.

“When officers respond to a mental health crisis, they respond as they would to crime — with force, as they are trained to do — and the results are deadly,” Maples said. “People with mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than those without mental illnesses.”

Waco senior Hixon Frank argued that local governments should not defund the police and should focus on hiring fewer higher-quality officers instead.

“If policing is another profession that children aspire to be, making it something that we need high-quality people into,” Frank said. “But if it’s something that only someone who’s desperate for a decent paying job is wanting to do going forward, we will not have quality officers.”

Houston graduate student Nick Hadsell went further and argued for the abolition of the police and the creation of privatized police.

“I’ll say, at least in the free market, these associations are going to be run by profit-driven leaders, and they have a vested interest in having a good reputation,” Hadsell said. “If you’re going to be known as an association that abuses people … that’s just agribusiness, right? People don’t want to go to war with other associations either. Why? Because war is really expensive, and people have a really tough time murdering other people.”

San Angelo junior Kevin Franke argued the funds already budgeted for the police need to be reprioritized within police departments themselves.

“The people that desperately need the ease of the oppression … also need the security to know that, you know, their law enforcement situation is not going to change overnight,” Franke said.

Round Rock senior Nicole Rager said she really enjoyed the structure of the debate. Rager said after listening to the debate, she decided that she is opposed to defunding the police but that she is in favor of giving more funding to social services.

“I was specifically in the middle, which is why I wanted to come here as well, because I wasn’t sure what defunding looks like,” Rager said. “And I wasn’t sure what some of the ideas were in order to maybe put more funding in other kinds of institutions instead or rearranging funding. I wanted to know what other people thought that looked like so that I could kind of get an idea of where I stood.”

Bangs graduate student Alex Madlock said she felt like everyone could share their opinions openly at the debate.

“It’s empowering to be able to have your voice spoken and heard without being judged, and it gives inclusion to anybody who is willing to stand up for what they believe in — whether they’re on the right or the left,” Madlock said. “You need to do it if you feel like there needs to be a change.”