As protests rise across the US after the murder of Geroge Floyd at the knee of a police officer (as well as neglect for the officer’s partners,) many people are saying the solution is to defund the police. What does defunding the police mean to the community, and how can it impact us all?
Defunding the police simply means reallocating the funds spent on police departments and focusing on other institutions that will help the community. So, instead of spending billions of dollars annually on the police department, give a portion of that money to social services like mental health institutions, homeless shelters, domestic violence agencies and more. The money can also be invested in schools, hospitals, housing and food for communities.
Instead of having the police respond to calls that they are not trained to handle, this initiative suggests that professionals or licensed therapists trained in the situation at hand would be best fit to come out to address the problem. This reduces the potential of situations escalating into violence between the public and police; and at the same time, allows us to utilize the resources in the community who are formally educated in handling situations that deal with mental health, for example. Give the money to institutions who will help the community.
When congresswoman AOC was asked about defunding the police and how she sees America with defunded police looks like, she stated:
“The good news is that it actually doesn’t take a ton of imagination.
It looks like a suburb. Affluent White communities already live in a world where they choose to fund youth, health, housing, etc. more than they fund police. These communities have lower crime rates – not because they have more police, but because they have more resources to support healthy society in a way that reduces crime.
When a teenager or preteen does something harmful in a suburb, White communities bend over backwards to find alternatives to incarceration for their loved ones to ‘protect their future,’ like community service or rehab or restorative measures. Why don’t we treat Black and Brown people the same way? Why doesn’t the criminal system care about Black teens’ futures the way they care for White teens’ futures? Why doesn’t the news use Black people’s graduation or family photos in stories the way they do when they cover White people (i.e., Brock Turner) who commit harmful crimes? Affluent White suburbs also design their own lives so that they walk through the world without having much interruption or interaction with police at all, aside from community events and speeding tickets (and many of these communities try to reduce those, too!)
Just starting THERE would be a dramatically and radically different world than what we are experiencing now.”
Other advocates are calling for disbanding the local police – and not just defunding it. Their argument is that by creating more social services or using the money to support existing social services, it will make up for the need of local police in many areas. When people find the right mental health resources, counseling, career advice, food and health resources, communities will rise.
Whether it is defunding police or disbanding local police from some neighborhoods, a step must be taken. Police brutality is a real problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible – and addressing it by supporting these communities and giving them more resources is how it should be done.