Ever since the senseless murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of Louisville and Minneapolis police we have heard the phrases "abolish the police" and "defund the police" almost daily. The rhetoric can be seen on Instagram or heard being chanted at peaceful protests across the country. But it's not all talk, and some are proving that they really are about that life. In fact members of the Minneapolis City Council announced earlier this month that they fully intend to not only defund but also dismantle the city's police department. Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN, "We committed to dismantling the policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of police."
So, What Exactly Does It Mean?
Defunding the police means exactly what it sounds like: taking away funding from police departments. However, defunding the police does not just mean withdrawing funding from law enforcement. It also means reallocating that funding that would usually go to law enforcement to other agencies and into the very communities that are policed the most. Agencies that promote job training, education, housing, crisis management, substance abuse counseling, and mental health services would instead reap the benefits of these much-needed funds.
Does Defunding Police Mean There Will Be No More Police?
Well, it depends on who you ask. Some supporters of the defund the police movement are simply asking that some funds (not all) be reallocated to other community agencies. After all, according to Forbes and Statista, the total police budget in New York City was $5.61 billion, so one would think they could spare to share the wealth a bit. Currently, police are expected to handle both violent and non-violent crimes, mental health and substance abuse crises just to name a few. Some supporters are asking that instead of all funds going to the police that they are instead reallocated to those who are better equipped to handle these issues.
However, some supporters hope that defunding the police will be the first step towards community-led public safety and are calling for police departments to be completely dismantled or abolished. Supporters of dismantling the police altogether feel that law enforcement actually does not encourage law and order. They feel law and order is instead encouraged through mental health services, substance abuse counseling, education, housing, and job security. They are of the mindset that when people feel they are taken care of and supported, safety usually increases.
What Would Happen If Police Are Defunded?
Critics of the defunding of the police movement feel that doing so will cause crime to rise, however evidence shows that may not be the case. A 2017 report shows that in 2014 and 2015 New York City Police put a stop to proactive policing. Proactive policing is defined as "systemic and aggressive enforcement of low-level violations" and more police in areas where "crime is anticipated". As a result, there were less complaints of crime. Ultimately, reducing police budgets is up to local governments. In Minneapolis members of the City Council voted on the issue. So, whether more cities begin to follow suit remains to be seen.
A Change Must Come
So, whether you are a supporter or a critic of defunding the police, I think we all can agree that something needs to be changed. Whether that means reallocation of funds or completely dismantling and rebuilding from the ground up remains to be seen. Police are literally killing unarmed black people every day and as the late, great Sam Cooke sang, "A change is gonna come."
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