Friday, December 1, 2023

What Defunding The Police Means

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There’s a growing group of dissenters who believe Americans can survive without law enforcement as we know it. And Americans, those dissenters believe, may even be better off without it.

Defunding Police Just Means Less Training: Police Union

If thats the case, our detractors and certainly our supporters think we should have more training not less, a union official said.

A top official at a major police union said calls to defund the police will cause serious constraints on everything from department personnel to how officers are trained.

Vice President Emeritus of the International Union of Police Associations Dennis Slocumb said hes concerned about additional burdens levied on departments that are already grossly understaffed in an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday. The 32-year law enforcement veteran said more training is the answer to some police blunders, but adequate instruction is wishful thinking if departments dont have the money to do it.

If theyre going to reduce money, that money is going to have to come from equipment and training and personnel. If thats the case, our detractors and certainly our supporters think we should have more training not less, he told the DCNF.

Almost every police department he knows of is understaffed and needs more funding to patrol the streets, and cutting those budgets wont help, Slocumb added, especially amid protests over the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, according to video.

Slocumb agrees that officers are not as well trained as mental health professionals to deal with psychiatric problems.

Slocumb roundly condemns this initiative.

Image: Reuters.

A Police Officer Will Never Walk Away

Some police proponents warn diminishing their role could be a risky move.

“We’re talking about switching responsibilities from the police officer on the corner to other agencies,” said Patrick Lynch, the president of the largest police officers’ union, the New York City Police Benevolent Association. “Why were those responsibilities placed on the shoulder of the police officers in the first place?” He answered his own question: “Because those other agencies failed at their job, and a police officer will never walk away from a crime victim.”

In situations arising from homelessness and mental illness, Lynch said he agrees in principle that the responsibility shouldn’t be in the hands of police officers but that no viable alternative currently exists.

“So to say you don’t need police officers, OK, I don’t agree. I think we do. We do in my neighborhood,” he added. And he warned that major budget cuts could lead to a repeat of the 1970s, when “crime was out of control.”

The backlash against defunding includes initiatives like one proposed by Texas state Senator Dawn Buckingham, who filed a bill that would withhold state grants from communities that cut their police budgets more than 5%.

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Protesters Want Big Change

The current round of demonstrations was set off by the killing of George Floyd, an incident of police misconduct so egregious that most everyone in American politics has denounced it.

But while former officer Derek Chauvin is under arrest, the protests are tackling a wide array of diffuse grievances related to race and policing. Police officers in turn have in many cases responded to the protests by acting less as neutral public servants than as well-equipped counterprotesters, using the cover of law and occasional looting incidents to mount a broad crackdown on public protest.

In the face of both long-simmering anger and the radicalization dynamic set off by abusive police conduct in the face of protest, its natural that many people would like to rally behind a big idea and an eschatological vision of change, rather than a laundry list of incremental reforms.

Police officers, police chiefs, and police unions, meanwhile, have been fairly clear that they dont think theres any kind of problem that merits any discussion of solutions. Most voters have mixed feelings, and say that while protester grievances are merited, they also like their local police. But those who dont like their local police want a big gesture of accountability.

Defund the police fits the bill, especially because the Covid-19 pandemic has made some kind of major reworking of budget priorities essentially inevitable.

How Much Does America Currently Spend On Police


In the past four decades, the cost of policing in the US has tripled and is now $115bn, according to a recent analysis. That steady increase comes as crime has been consistently declining. In most cities, spending on police is significantly greater than spending on services and other departments . The Covid-19 economic crisis has led cities and states to make drastic budget cuts to education, youth programs, arts and culture, parks, libraries, housing services and more. But police budgets have grown or gone largely untouched until pressure from protests this week.

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Flood Schools With Counselors Not Cops

There are thousands of police in schools across the country. This results in the arrest of countless students for minor misbehavior.

We must work towards a future where students are safe in school, educators are trained not to rely on police for conflict resolution, and there are no police in schools at all. We must remove police officers and other surveillance devices from schools, and replace them with the needed number of teachers and counselors.

What Is Justice Reinvestment

Defunding the police is one part of a larger movement theorized by criminal scholars and supported by marginalized communities known as justice reinvestment.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance at the US Department of Justice s website describes justice reinvestment as: A data-driven approach to improve public safety, examine corrections and related criminal justice spending, manage and allocate criminal justice populations in a more cost-effective manner, and reinvest savings in strategies that can hold offenders accountable, decrease crime, and strengthen neighborhoods.

The movement believes in collecting and analyzing data on why crime happens, proposing and implementing changes to increase public efficiency, and measuring the financial and public safety implications of those changes. It argues that taxpayer money could be reallocated to better serve all of our fellow Americans.

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We Have Better Choices Than This

If you look at expert recommendations for improving policing in the United States, calls for broad-based budget cuts are often not on the list. And by the same token, the evidence that putting more cops on the beat helps reduce crime is fairly overwhelming.

That said, slashing spending on schools or parks or transportation isnt good policy either.

When the overall labor market is robust, cutting back on wasteful or ineffective government services can be broadly helpful because it helps reallocate resources to more productive sectors of the economy. Whats happening right now, however, is that the unemployment rate is about 20 percent. Anyone furloughed from working in a library or a rec center or a fire department or a school or a police department adds to the ranks of the jobless.

At the same time, the interest rate paid on federal debt is currently less than the overall rate of price inflation meaning Congress can essentially borrow money for less than nothing.

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A Long History Of Enforcing White Supremacy

What does defunding the police mean?

The role of policing in society cannot be severed from the historical context in which the system was first put in place, argues Robyn Maynard in her book, Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present.

Maynard writes:Canadas first policing body, the North-West Mounted Police , played an important role in the Canadian governments arsenal toward quelling Indigenous rebellion and protecting the economic interests of white settlers.

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Defund The Police Explained

According to Rashawn Ray, a sociologist and fellow at the Brookings Institution, Defund the police means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality.

Ray is quick to point out that defunding the police does not mean abolishing the police, but any resources, financial or otherwise, mean fewer police officers on the streets to help keep our communities safe. In fact, CNN reports that Those seeking to disband police consider defunding an initial step toward creating an entirely different model of community-led public safety.

So-called community-led public safety is not led by police and pushes police to the background or out of the picture entirely. Where does the money taken from the police go? The answer varies by city but generally falls into a few buckets.

Those dollars can be used to fund schools, hospitals, housing and food in those communities, too all of the things we know increase safety, Phillip McHarris, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Yale University and lead research and policy associate at the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability, told CNN.

Schools, hospitals, and housing are great, but they do not keep violent criminals off the streets in the same way that police do. This simple fact has started to play out in cities across the United States.

What Does Defunding The Police Mean

Calls to defund police departments are generally seeking spending cuts to police forces that have consumed ever larger shares of city budgets in many cities and towns. Minneapolis, for instance, is looking to cut $200 million from its $1.3 billion overall annual budget, said Lisa Bender, the City Council president. The police budget in 2020 was $189 million. She hopes to shift money to other areas of need in the city.

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Policing Diverts Billions Of Dollars From Schools Health Care And Other Vital Programs That Need More Funding To Strengthen Our Communities And Support Shared Well

U.S. cities collectively spend $100 billion a year on policing, while needed investments in education, health care, housing, and other critical programs go unfulfilled, particularly in poor communities and communities of color. New York City, for instance, spends more on policing than it does on the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined.

Our tax dollars must be reallocated from this system that regularly murders Black people with impunityand instead invested in programs that strengthen our communities.

Outside The United States

What Does Defund The Police Mean?

In Canada, politicians in major cities have expressed interest in diverting some police funds. In Toronto, city councilors Josh Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam have planned to propose a 10% cut to the police budget. In Montreal, Mayor has said she is in talks about the police budget.

In Scotland, a violence reduction unit was set up in 2005, which aims to prevent violence with educational and outreach programs.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair criticized Defund the police in a 2021 article for the New Statesman, describing it as “voter-repellent” and “the leftâs most damaging political slogan since ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat.'” Blair furthermore claimed that the slogan “leaves the right with an economic message which seems more practical and a powerful cultural message around defending flag, family and fireside traditional values.â Both the leaderships of the British Labour Party and the Conservative Party have pledged not to defund the police force.

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The National Conversation On Defund Is Ongoing

CBS Evening News anchor Norah ODonnell asked Joe Biden whether he supported defunding the police on June 9, 2020.

No, I dont support defunding the police, the then-presidential candidate said. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community.

Nearly two dozen cities have since taken steps to reduce police funding or redirect funds toward other services though the 50 largest U.S. cities slightly increased their law enforcement spending as a percentage of their combined 2021 budgets.

As some cities recalibrate police spending, defund the police remains relevant, and contentious, in the national conversation.

In June, on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana why he and other Republicans voted against a COVID-19 relief package that directed billions toward community programs and policing, including hiring more officers.

Wallace asked, Cant you make the argument that its you and Republicans who are defunding the police?

Banks replied, Not at all, Chris. After some back-and-forth with Wallace, Banks pivoted to political rivals:

Its unclear whether Omar has described a specific law enforcement department or police generally as evil.

But she has called the Minneapolis Police Department a cancer and rotten to the root.

Defund The Police To Protect Life On Earth

In the past, white settler environmentalists have fought against the destruction of the natural environment while ignoring or sometimes even opposing Indigenous land stewardship think of Greenpeaces historic campaign against the commercial seal hunt, which vilified the Inuit communities who rely on sustainably harvesting seals. In recent years we have seen a shift, with some groups acknowledging that the fight for Indigenous sovereignty and Land Back is the fight for the survival of all life on Earth.

All the lands that Indigenous Peoples are protecting from the native prairie in Saskatchewan to the old growth forests at Fairy Creek to play a critical role in absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, making them a vital part of achieving our national and international climate goals. In the same way, Indigenous blockades of mines, pipelines, and logging help us avert our greenhouse gas emissions at the scale required to avoid climate breakdown.

There is no clearer example of the seamless nexus between corporations, the government, and the police.

Indeed, a new report from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International found that “Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”

Molly Murphy is a front-line activist, builder, settler, and mother of three.

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Education And Work Infrastructure

One consistent finding in the social science literature is that if we really want to reduce crime, education equity and the establishment of a work infrastructure is the best approach. A study using 60 years of data found that an increase in funding for police did not significantly relate to a decrease in crime. Throwing more police on the street to solve a structural problem is one of the reasons why people are protesting in the streets. Defunding policereallocating funding away from police departments to other sectors of governmentmay be more beneficial for reducing crime and police violence.

Is Defunding Actually Possible

What does ‘defunding the police’ mean?

Another issue advocates of defunding face: Police forces wield an immense amount of power and influence, and, historically, the data shows that many Americans find them trustworthy. As Eric Levitz notes on Intelligencer, There are only three institutions that perennially command a great deal or quite a lot of confidence from Americans in Gallups polling: the military, small business, and the police. In a Gallup poll from 2018, 54 percent of Americans expressed a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the police. By supporting the effort to defund police, a prevailing argument goes, elected officials could risk alienating a significant portion of their constituents.

While the call to defund the police has certainly gained momentum, a new ABC NewsIpsos poll indicates that many arent convinced: Out of a random national sample of 686 adults, 64 percent said they oppose the movement, while 34 percent said they support such a move. Among black Americans, support nearly doubled: Fifty-seven percent said they support defunding.

This post has been updated.

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Police In Schools Highly Contentious

One of the most contentious roles of police in our communities is the presence of police officers in schools. Just this month, the Ottawa District School Board released a survey asking parents to provide input on the issue. It costs the board $95,000 annually to pay for one school resource officer . There are 23 other school resource police officers they are paid out of the police budget.

Supporters will argue that these programs help create positive relationships between law enforcement and youth. However, it is often BIPOC students and communities that feel the negative impacts of police presence and push school boards to abandon the practice.

Yet, as with defunding the police in general, the status quo has also often prevailed or at least a version of it. The Vancouver School Board, for instance, voted to end the Student Liaison Officer program with caveats that could create new relationships between schools and police.

A second Metro Vancouver school board in as many days has voted to remove police from schools.

Where school boards have gone against the tide and stopped the programs, there have been some positive impacts on student achievement and success.

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