"Defund the police." Those words have been painted onto the streets of Washington D.C.
Across the country, calls are mounting from some activists and elected officials to defund, downsize or abolish police departments after the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. After days of protesting in Protesters are screaming and demanding a promising new system of public safety in cities nationwide after years of law enforcement racism.
The calls for change have left people uncertain of what those changes would really mean and how cities would contend with crime. Conversations that have been pushed year after year to the way side have been reignited. The role of police in society is now a huge discussion for better policing and a change in government. "It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe," council President Lisa Bender said. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period."
Many ask, "What does defunding the police mean?"
Defund police departments calls for cutting budgets and taking away funding of police forces. Generally the police department has a huge spending allotment in cities and holds one of the biggest percentages of the city's annual budget. The funds will be shifted and allocated to other areas of need in the city to help more social and community programs. Protesters and activists are asking the shift to be spent on citywide mental health initiatives, housing, education, and community crime and violence initiatives.
Black Communities have been deeply divested from the impact of having true resources. "And so we have to reconsider what we’re resourcing. I've been saying we have an economy of punishment over an economy of care," stated Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Policing in America has a long history of disproportionate harm to communities of color that has been overlooked just like the social injustice that has been endured for the last 400 years. From the enforcement of Jim Crow laws to the current state of inequitable the black community faces in America history shows the disproportionate rate of black people being killed and yet again no justice.
The majority of victims of lethal force by police were white, the fatality rate among black people is 2.8 times higher than the rate for white people. In cases that police used lethal force, black victims were more likely to be unarmed than white and hispanic victims.
So I ask when do we start to address the root cause of the issues we face? Instead cities are proposing plans to bandaid the true issue at hand instead of address it.
Minneapolis has proposed the MPD150 plan which will take away police from communities and their past responsibilities will go to social workers, mental health care providers and victim or survivor advocates, among others, who will address the problems police are called to handle.
Black Lives Matter and other groups have worked on police reforms for years, and there has not been a change. New training protocols and the requirement of body-worn cameras aren't working. "The body cameras have done nothing more than show us what’s happened over and over again. The training has done nothing but show us that law enforcement and the culture of law enforcement is incapable of changing." stated Patrisse Cullors.
Photo Credit: NY Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and WSJ.com