With all of the turmoil in the country regarding police violence and police’s relationship with citizens, it has become clear that there are many issues contributing to the underlying problem — some of which may not be as apparent to those not serving in law enforcement. I propose several thoughts and solutions to this problem. These come from a real-world perspective in response to those demanding significant reform such as entirely defunding police forces.

What is law enforcement? It is the duty to uphold the law carried out by people. Lately, Police officers have been under attack by the media and black lives matter groups. Those same people are now calling for change based on a handful of isolated incidents and are somehow classifying all police officers as racist.

Police officers enforce the laws in cities and states governed by elected officials. In larger cities, the departments are feeling the brunt of these protests and attacks, yet they are just doing their job. These same departments are some of the most diverse in the world, oftentimes reflecting the population they are serving. This is especially true in the NYPD where minority officers make up the majority. How on earth could a fellow black police officer be racist to a black population? Many of these officers have chosen the profession as a way to give back to their communities and break the cycle of systematic racism from the past. The simple but honest answer is that the people rioting and protesting either do not want law enforcement at all or are clearly being misinformed. I believe the issue has less to do with race or the people enforcing the law, but rather more to do with the governing body that creates the laws.

The politicians who use this turmoil as a means for political gain are allowing their own cities to burn and the law-abiding business owners to suffer. Yet, rather than taking responsibility for the underserving, low-income neighborhoods, where almost all of these complaints of “police brutality” stem from, the politicians are choosing to neglect such constituents. The issue is not with the police, it is with politicians — it is with the same people who ask for your votes yet seemingly continue to underserve you, and channel money away from the low-income neighborhoods and schools that need it most. Police officers are the scapegoat, not the source of the real issue.

When you have over 600k police officers in the U.S. and only a handful of controversial police “killings,” can you really say that the entire force is interested in killing black people? Or rather the small percentage of “killings” — less than one percent of the outcomes — are caused by resisting law enforcement? Believe me when I tell you every officer nationwide is faced with unpredictable situations every day. These situations can easily go south but often do not because of the professionalism of most of the force.

The truth of the matter is, at one point or another, all police officers were common folk, some of the best are former teachers, lawyers, mechanics, military members, or held other civilian jobs first, this is especially true in higher-paid departments. Police officers hail from all walks of life. The same people protesting could have a similar resume as a police officer (minus anyone that has committed serious offenses or is completely out of shape.) Police officers are community members. The vast majority of whom go to work each day to protect and serve in a thankless job, and in many cases go home to the same neighborhoods they work in.

When I first started working as a police officer, someone told me that it is better to have one great police officer instead of five “hair bags.” When I recently mentioned this, I was rebuked with the following, “so you want to defund the police?” I replied no: I want to get rid of the dead weight and pay that one police officer more money, so he is in a better mind and spirit. I want to invest in our police.

Our police departments are often underfunded and our officers overworked. We need to invest in the people and professions that uphold our community. The salary of entry-level law enforcement officers across the nation is as low as that of teachers, neither of which is acceptable. Our federal counterparts in the FBI require three years of work experience and an age of 23 to join their ranks, yet there are states that allow 19 years olds to join the police force. Being a police officer should never be a person’s first job. Life experience and emotional maturity are crucial in order to relate to the population you are serving, to find that common compassion, and to be able to better communicate. These are life skills you can only get by living.

Police brutality is not nearly as widespread an issue. Rather, it is isolated occurrences being exploited by the media and perpetuated by the corrupt politicians that want to distract from the root cause. One of the main issues at hand is that the majority of police officers are faced with an incredibly stressful job in which they are underpaid and overworked.

These same officers enter each shift, not knowing if they will make it home. These officers see death and the failures of our local officials each day when they respond to an overdose or another senseless shooting. These officers greet grieving families to deliver the news that a child was killed in the cross-hair between rival gangs on the way to work; an innocent casualty of a failed system. These officers respond to active domestic abuse calls, only to get attacked by the victim.

Police officers have the same stress at home like everyone else, yet they go to work each day, not knowing what trauma or danger will greet them. Defund the police? That is not a solution to the real problem. Invest in our communities. Invest in our infrastructure. Invest in education. Invest in our police. We will never eradicate violence from the fabric of our society. However, with competent and confident Law Enforcement Officers at the helm, we can protect the majority just trying to get through the day.

It’s time for the sheep to quiet up and listen to the people who actually wear the uniform. Listen to the men and women of all races, who actually answered the call — who approach every day with the intent to make the community safer, so that all people can go about their day without worry as to whether they will make it home. Defunding and disarming the police will lead to more lives lost, not less. At the end of the day, no individual life is more important than another.

This article was written by Arthur Noel, a former NYPD Detective-Undercover officer.