(The Center Square) – Amid protest signs seen at demonstrations in Illinois and across the country are calls to “defund the police.” A member of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and a law enforcement association have different ideas.

Tensions escalated this week over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The four officers involved have since been fired and criminally charged.

But protests continued calling for things like defunding law enforcement.

State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, said she wants to file a bill to prohibit law enforcement from getting surplus military equipment.

“Otherwise, we will find more and more of this unrest where the war now is at the gas station up the street or at the mall where you have so much social unrest,” Ammons said.

Illinois Association of Police Chiefs Executive Director Ed Wojcicki said what happened in Minneapolis was horrible. But he said police have to be prepared to handle violent civil unrest.

“Some people are saying ‘well you don’t send in riot police because that just sends the wrong signal,’” Wojcicki said. “But if the people who are out there with bricks and Molotov cocktails and they’re ready to set things on fire, should your first line of defense to that be go out and talk to those people when they’re throwing bricks at you? That doesn’t really make sense.”

The Urban Institute said state and local expenditures on police can be about 4 percent of overall spending.

Ammons said public safety spending needs to be reformed to focus on things like after-school programs and more.

“Why don’t we invest into our parks and our resources where people can get out and get some of the energy out that are really pent up in their homes as opposed to putting it into more tasers and police body cameras,” Ammons said.

Wojcicki said calling to defund the police goes contrary to the work the police chiefs in Illinois have done over the past four years with the NAACP. He says they’ve worked on and implemented principles to foster better cooperation among police and minority communities. Among those principles is the preservation of human life.

“There is a positive aspect to this," Wojcicki said. "There is a recognition that the police are asked to do the work of parents, of social workers, of mental health experts when they encounter people with mental health issues on the street." 

That doesn't mean defunding police, he said, but finding other resources to cover needed social services.

The state of Illinois will spend about 5 percent of its $40 billion budget on public safety. Most of that is for the state’s prisons.

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Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.