Defund the Police

After policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes, suffocating him to death, and the shooting of Breonna Taylor, who was sleeping in her home when she was shot eight times, protests against police brutality organized by Black Lives Matter and other social justice groups gained national attention not seen in years, reaching mainstream media. As a result, other movements and beliefs also came to light, the All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB) sentiment also became popular, raising the debate about whether police departments should be defunded, reformed, or even abolished, as they are currently not working to protect ALL of our people. But this sentiment has existed for decades, since the Civil Rights Movement and the beginnings of Black Panther, as people of color knew that police officers were there to uphold the systemic racism that oppressed them. And all things considered, because of this system, the only way by which positive change can occur is to defund the police. Veteran civil rights activist Angela Davis described it as such, “There is an unbroken line of police violence in the U.S. that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery.”

So what does defunding the police mean? Defunding the police would entail reallocating or redirecting funds away from police departments and investing them into municipal programs aimed at helping the community, such as health care, education, and housing. 

Photo by Taymaz Valley

Policing in America has had a long history of oppression and violence. The first U.S. city police departments were slave patrols, designed to capture enslaved individuals escaping to their freedom; even modern police played a major role in violently enforcing Jim Crow laws, targeting minorities during the War on Drugs, and cracking down on peaceful protesters. People of color, but especially Black people, are arrested and incarcerated at much higher rates than white people, with longer sentences, sometimes even for lesser crimes. A 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows police officers were twice as likely to use force against people of color than against white people. Additionally, other marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+ individuals, the homeless, and those with disabilities and mental illnesses experience disproportionate violence from police officers. In fact, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, “People with mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police than regular civilians.”

Many Americans consider the best way to solve police brutality is to reform our police departments and invest in properly training our officers. The problem with this is that police reform cannot work because one cannot reform their core reason for existing. Modern police in America were designed to protect the wealthy and powerful while simultaneously criminalizing marginalized groups and the working class. The best way to ensure the safety of those oppressed by this system is to allocate police funds into other programs, like housing, education, health care, youth services, and other community resources that will also inevitably reduce crime as the standard of living and quality of life improve. 

This is not to say a form of law enforcement isn’t necessary to deal with serious and violent crimes. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only five percent of arrests are for serious offenses like rape, murder, and assault; but there is no excuse for the behavior in which many police officers partake and with that the system allows them to get away with. Ultimately, defunding local police departments will reduce crime rates and improve our communities.