Defund The Police. What Does It Mean?
When 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys can expect to die as a result of police violence over the course of their lives – a risk that's about 2.5 times higher than their white peers, you would think that over the decades a change in how the police fit into our society would have happened by now, right? Wrong! It's the year 2020 and the police force has only grown their expansion in communities and their responsibilities. But now, here we are. With the recent killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, our leaders have injected a new movement to defund the police across America.
History has shown that it is easy for those who do not have the best interest in Black issues to hijack a movement for their own self-gain, hatred and willingness to be ignorant. Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest of taking a knee during the national anthem was never about disrespecting soldiers and the American flag but about police brutality across America towards Black and Brown men and women. Trump and those who were unwilling to listen, made Kaepernick’s protest about them and an issue they can mock and spread lies about for their own self-glorification. Those same people are now trying to spread fear and misinformation about what defunding the police actually means.
I must admit, when I first heard people yelling in the streets to defund the police, I thought our leaders wanted our streets to look as if patients escaped Arkham and roamed Gotham, as we all waited for Batman to save us. But as I learned more about what defunding police actually meant, through reading and research on the internet, yes the same internet that Trump and his supporters can watch a cat play the piano, I found vital information - shocking! What I learned was defunding the police is as simple as it sounds. Taking the budget that is given to the police force and redirecting some of that money into other areas in communities that will help create better lives and keep crimes down.
I clutched my pearls when I first heard about the demand to defund the police. I thought to myself, why? And the answer came to me. I do not know a society without an excessive police force. Growing up, all I have ever witnessed was the damaging effects of policing. When an institution was birthed to track down enslaved people who escaped the south, to enforcing Jim Crow laws, it should not be a question of if but when reform and changes will happen.
Those who are championing the defunding of police say that policing in America has a long history of disproportionate harm to communities of color. Unfortunately, history has continued to repeat itself, year after year, without any major accountability from law enforcement. In fact, cities have only increased police budgets and their presence in communities of color. New York City’s police budget is $5.9 billion and New York City’s Mayor wanted to cut hundreds of millions out of school budgets, which he has now expressed different views after this public outcry. What defunding the police simply means is instead of education and other agency cuts, the police budget will take a cut and pump that money into other areas of society, which public interest advocates say is vital to help build stronger, healthier and safer communities.
There are those who oppose defunding the police. They will say that money is invested in low income and communities of color. And they are absolutely right but that investment is entirely on criminalization. The United States spends around $100 billion dollars annually on policing and another $80 billion on incarceration, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Popular Democracy. "The reality is that America's social order has never been entirely equitable," Alex S. Vitale, a professor of sociology and author of Ending The Police, told NPR. "While we're not using police to manage slavery or colonialism today, we are using police to manage the problems that our very unequal system has produced."
Understand, the plan is not to get rid of all policing. Defunding the police means creating a shift in the role of policing in America. It is coming up with ways that we can have civility in our communities without an excessive police force. Defunding the police is not only cutting the budget but also having a social service approach in how we deal with calls of distress. When 1.7 million students don't have school counselors, 3 million students don't have school nurses, 6 million students don't have school psychologists and 10 million students don't have school social workers, it is time to get real at the thought of a different society that no longer protects officers who are overly aggressive and in some cases murderers. The dollars that law enforcement receives can go towards education, hospitals, housing, and food - all things that help increase public safety.
The demand to defund the police does have public officials listening now more than ever. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti committed to slashing between $100 - $150 million of their police department budget. Mayor De Blasio has changed his tune and is looking to shift funds away for New York City’s police department and just last week nine members of Minneapolis city council have vowed to dismantle the city’s police department, which was responsible for the death of George Floyd and replace it with a new community-based system of public safety.
Protesting works, demanding justice works and having equality will work. A change is coming. Finding new ways to eradicate old ideas and institutions is how we continue to evolve as a society and that is something we should all agree on. Unfortunately, those who continue to want the old ideas and institutions to reflect in communities do not care about evolving. They rather keep their elite status and keep Black people oppressed. Keep fighting.