Protestors across the country have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to demand an end to police brutality. But exactly how do we do that? In an ideal world, police would simply stop brutalizing people, but as you may have seen from the countless videos of cops beating on citizens protesting that exact brutality, we are for sure not living in a world anywhere close to Utopia.
One proposed resolution that has entered the mainstream conversation is defunding the police. For many (read: white people) this is a new, and even confusing concept. You might be asking yourself what defunding the police would entail, and how it could work in a society that has yet to eradicate violence and crime. The idea of taking resources from the people whose job is supposed to be “to protect and serve” might make you question who would be there for you when you needed those services. These are valid questions and concerns, and they have answers.
Hi. When republicans want to defund things like food stamps they just call it tax cuts.
Happy to help.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) June 9, 2020
Why Should America Spend Less On Policing?
In America, the government collectively spends about $100 billion on policing. On top of that, the United States spends about $80 billion on incarceration. That’s a *shit ton* of money being funneled into criminalizing and locking up our citizens. And there is a major racial disparity at play here. Black men make up about 13 percent of the male population, but about 35 percent of those incarcerated. Similarly, while Black women make up about 13 percent of the female population, 44 percent of incarcerated women are Black.
All of this is no coincidence. The entire concept of incarceration and policing was born out of racism and slavery in America. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, unless convicted of a crime. This made it so white slaveowners who were pissed they were losing slaves could still get that free labor by arresting and incarcerating Black people. Black people were targeted for petty crimes like“walking without a purpose” or “walking at night,” or homelessness.
Police have not just disproportionately targeted, arrested, and incarcerated Black people. They also murder them at considerably higher rates than white people. A Black person in America is 2.5 times more likely to be murdered than a white person. The demonstrations across the nation and world have brought necessary attention to the unjust murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police. But these two horrific killings were not isolated. The list of Black people in America that have died at the hands of police brutality is disturbingly long. Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tony McDade, and many others make up a list that continues to grow without police accountability.
Given ample evidence that Black people’s encounters with police could be more likely to harm than protect them, an entire, marginalized group of our society left feeling unable to contact the police for their safety. That a collective $100 billion spent to “keep Americans safe” that excludes a huge portion of America. How is that fair and just? Spoiler alert, it’s not.
If we want to practice what we preach when we say that Black Lives Matter, then we have to fight for a society that spends its resources on protecting Black lives, and stands up when Black lives are being taken. Continuing to fund the police and giving them the means to take Black lives away from themselves and their families — whether it be by incarcerating them or killing them — then we are, with our action and our inaction, saying that Black lives don’t matter.
So, if we want to protect Black lives, we must, say it with me now: defund the police.
Defund Planned Parenthood: "We can't let the government subsidize murder!"
Defund police: Well hey now…
— The Betches Sup (@Betches_Sup) June 8, 2020
What Does “Defunding” Mean In Practice?
Defunding the police means diverting funds meant for police departments and reallocating them to social services that invest in communities subject to over-policing. What if 9-1-1 wasn’t the only number you could call when you needed help? What if professionals who were better trained to deal with moments of crisis and could help with de-escalation through nonviolent methods? What if asking for help didn’t have to mean dealing with the possibility of legal penalty? Sounds nice, imo.
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#linkinbio to the #googledoc featured here. The author’s intro is the very last slide. The author says not to worry about credit of the images, instead for us to focus on imagining living in this world together. I want to live in that world with y’all! Let’s prioritize reparations & black futures. Let’s embrace decolonizing so-called law enforcement and dismantling not only police, but also the prison-industrial complex that has wreaked havoc for far too long. #nooneisdisposable #buildbelovedcommunity #reparationsnow #allseedsusedtobefree this shit has gone too far.
For example, what if when someone needed to report an overdose, they were able to contact healthcare professionals who are trained to deal with substance use and overdoses could come to the scene and assist them without getting the law involved? Then, this person could get the care they need without the fear of being criminalized or even brutalized by police who see them as lawbreakers who deserve punishment. The failed war on drugs has shown us that criminalizing drug use has only exacerbated the problem, so really, leaving the police out of these types of situations would be beneficial.
This applies to various situations in which the police are called in to “help.” Traffic stops, people experiencing homelessness in need of assistance and/or housing, mental health crisis, and domestic issues to name a few.
Instead of giving so much money to police departments and entrusting them to better our communities with it, we could distribute funds to service workers who specialize in the different areas of social and safety services that could make more informed, less combative and violent decisions when working to de-escalate and resolves issues.
Cutting the budgets of police departments wouldn’t just mean being able to fund social and safety services. It would also mean being able to funnel more money into education, healthcare, and public programs at large.
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How do you want *your* money to be spent? a) spend it on police officers that continually abuse their positions and threaten public safety or b) spend it on welfare programs that have been systematically reduced I chose buses here because the amounts were so close but, you know, pick your thing! Want free school meals for every elementary school kid in New York? Cool, that only costs $39 million so you’ve got lots left over. Care about homelessness? Great, you could house 3,281 people for an entire year for this amount. You get the idea. As for the second image, at the protest last night, we chanted 𝘞𝘩𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘪𝘯 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘨𝘦𝘢𝘳? 𝘐 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘴𝘦𝘦 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘪𝘰𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦. The UK sells riot guns, teargas and riot shields to the US so we’re also deeply complicit in the violence that these officers inflict. Image 1 sources: New York City Comptroller, Annual Claims Report Fiscal Year 2018 + New York City Comptroller, Financial Outlook for the MTA, 2018 Image 2 sources: The Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals, April 2020 (this was a report about how prices have risen exponentially due to COVID-19 – these are the prices *after* those rises). Police equipment prices were hard to find. I found a public document where companies bid to provide riot gear for Columbus, Georgia police force in 2017 and used the averages of those bids except for the gloves where I averaged 3 online product listings. Will provide links in stories to all of this. I don't normally use hashtags but I want these images to end up in front of some police officers themselves so excuse me while I fuck with the algorithm a bit. #backtheblue #policelife #kag #kag2020 #lawenforcementfamily #policedepartment #blacklivesmatter #defundthepolice
“Police Reform” vs “Defunding the Police”
Police reform is a term that is thrown around when talking about how to address police brutality, and to be clear, that is different than defunding the police. This usually refers to the idea that we need to create more training programs that teach police how to de-escalate situations, provide them sensitivity and diversity workshops, and the like. This basically means giving police departments more money to teach them how to not be *checks notes* so violently racist that it results in the death of Black people? Honey, if they need extra training for that, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a lost cause at that point.
Reform also means creating more laws that would hypothetically stop cops from abusing their power, like banning the chokehold or making it illegal to shoot at a moving car. Sure, these things should be banned, but should we really be putting on energy into this kind of resolution when a huge part of this conversation is about how police aren’t held accountable? Last I checked, murder was banned too, but that hasn’t stopped them.
“iF we aBoLiSh thE poLiCe how wiLl wE sOlvE mUrDers?” White women with podcasts, Steven.
— Camilla Blackett (@camillard) June 8, 2020
Critics of police reform also point out that the Minneapolis Police Department — which the city has deemed so broken it cannot be fixed — had actually implemented numerous reforms meant to keep community members safe. George Floyd still died.
Now, maybe you or someone you know is upset by the idea of defunding the police because you/they think it’s disrespectful and wrong to take away the money they use to keep their department operating. (And because, yes, the end goal is to abolish the police.) Maybe you know a cop who you feel is a good person. You might have had good experience with cops and/or witnessed one/some do their jobs well. You might even be a cop and consider yourself to be a good one.
I believe that one, some, or all of these things can be true. But at the end of the day, cops have decided to be part of an oppressive system that historically and continuously targets, incarcerates, and murders Black people. People like to dismiss the idea that “cops are bad” by saying, “there are just a few bad apples.” I was reminded of the true meaning behind the “few bad apples” saying and how it actually contradicts this pro-cop line of thinking from a tweet my friend, comedian and writer Julia Claire:
Ah yes who among us could forget the famous adage "A few bad apples…" that has no additional words after it
— Julia Claire (@ohJuliatweets) June 2, 2020
The idiom tells us “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Claire points out that people defending “good cops” by co-opting the first half of the bad apples adage are completely ignoring the part where the barrel of apples is ruined from the rot that takes hold of the bunch.
Metaphors aren’t perfect, and man-built systems of oppression don’t operate in the same exact fashion as apples, but it’s worth noting that singular good qualities can’t save the ultimate ruin of the collective group, as the saying warns us.
The individual “good cops” you may know aren’t changing a system rooted in racism with their isolated acts of niceness. Some cops having moments of humanity doesn’t change the fact that in the grand scheme of things, police officers are killing Black people and not being held accountable for it because cops look out for their own. Don’t urge people to forgive the rot that has overtaken the barrel. It’s gross.
Being able to believe that the police will keep you safe is a white privilege. It’s time to stop basing our systems on the perspective and comfort white privilege provides. Defund the police.
If you would like to email your officials and asking them to defund the police, here is a link to help you do that.
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Images: Instagram: @Complex, Instagram: @queerappalachia, Instagram: @theunapologeticallybrownseries, Twitter: @ohJuliaTweets