The president of the Seacoast chapter of the NAACP says that his membership does not support calls to defund the police.
Rogers Johnson, who is also the chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion, said that nobody has explained to them what defunding the police may look like in New Hampshire, a state where NAACP members have been working with leaders in law enforcement to forge positive relationships for years.
“The reason why we established these relationships is because it is beneficial to our membership. It’s beneficial to black people,” Johnson said. “When things happen, these are the people we are going to need to help us fix it. That’s the case.”
Johnson said that defunding police in New Hampshire could lead to fewer resources for the state’s 15,000 black residents at a time when they are needed most.
Johnson’s comments on Wednesday come at a time when there is a national debate on whether or not police departments have too many weapons and have taken on too many social services in American communities.
During a June 4 Black Lives Matter protest in Portsmouth, organizer Ramsay Dean called for the demilitarization of police.
“There is no reason for local police departments to have access to military weapons from the federal government. Police departments with more military weapons kill more black people. Period,” Dean said.
Democratic leaders in Washington, D.C, unveiled a police reform bill this week that would ban chokeholds and make it easier to sue police officers who unjustly injure or kill people. It does not address the issue of defunding the police, but U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did speak about redirecting some federal funding toward addressing mental health and policing in schools when questioned.
U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) told WMUR on Tuesday that he does not agree with calls to defund the police but there is a need for better social services so law enforcement does not have to face crisis situations.
“When you think of all the challenges we have as a society — mental health, addiction, this pandemic — a lot of that has been laid at the feet of law enforcement,” Pappas told political reporter John DiStaso.
Both Republican candidates hoping to run against Pappas this fall also say they do not support defunding the police.
Matt Mowers, of Bedford, says as some liberal Democratic leaders in Washington consider defunding police departments, law enforcement officers are being targeted across the country.
“I think we need to defend the police and not defund the police. You have folks that are advocating for full defunding and I think it’s dangerous. It’s a dangerous conversation to have,” Mowers said.
“This type of conversation is only encouraging opposition to police officers and putting them in harm’s way and I think we need to be standing as elected officials or people with a public platform to support our police officers at a time like this.”
Matt Mayberry, of Dover, said that police departments in the state are already working with limited resources and have been asked to tackle extreme challenges in the past few years.
“First, we asked them to deal with all the opioid overdoses. Being first responders, they are often the first ones there on the scene before an EMT. And then they were dealing with COVID and trying to protect not only us, but their families. Then this onslaught, this third strike of, defunding and dismantling police departments,” Mayberry said.
When questioned about the idea of turning some police duties over to social service workers in drug related or domestic violence cases, Mayberry asked, “When you dial 9-1-1, do you want a police officer, or do you want a social worker to show up?”
Mayberry said he has decided to take action, not as a political candidate, but as an individual. He has organized his group of “Gratitude Givers” to hold signs in support of law enforcement in front of six police departments over the weekend.
“I was tired of the bull****,” Mayberry said of making the decision to organize the events. “If I see a problem, I will go address it.”
Sign waving will take place on Saturday in Manchester at 10 a.m.; Somersworth at 12:30 p.m.; and Laconia at 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday, sign-waving will be held in Merrimack at 10 a.m.; Seabrook at 12:30 p.m.; and Wolfeboro at 3 p.m.
Mayberry said all are welcome to come out with signs of thanks.
Mayberry said he is not concerned that people who drive by will see their signs as standing up for the police officers who killed 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25 by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.