People around the United States are still protesting against police brutality — protests have been ongoing for over two months after the death of George Floyd, who died after Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes. Among the various chants and proposals, one has picked up some traction: defund the police.
What is defunding the police?
The premise of defunding the police boils down to reducing the amount of money spent on policing and instead diverting money to more proactive methods of public safety such as job training, counseling, and violence-protection programs . Divestment is one of the terms used in conjunction with defunding to emphasize that money will be put elsewhere to help the public.
Where will the money go?
It depends. Many cities have proposed slashing police budgets and using the money saved for a variety of services. The amount of money, the needs of the community and other constraints factor into how the money will be used.
Take Los Angeles as an example. The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to cut $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget.
The city plans to partition the money from the cuts in a couple of ways: $90 million will be put toward programs serving marginalized communities, $10 million toward a city summer youth employment program, $40 million to reduce furloughs and the rest toward their reserves.
Though a sizable sum, some pointed out that the cut consists of a relatively insignificant amount of the LAPD’s $1.8 billion operating budget.
“That is literally pocket change,” L.A. resident Rebecca Kessler told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s a slap in the face. You need to defund the police, take way more money, put way more money into these programs.”
What are people really asking for when they ask to defund the police?
The demands from protesters are varied. Some ask for additional police oversight. Others want to get rid of police departments altogether, while others want funds rerouted to organizations that will be better equipped to respond to issues in a way that police officers are unable to do. For example, expanding on mobile crisis centers to help people struggling with mental health would put them in the hands of trained professionals and not unskilled police officers.
Though the presumed end goal or result of police defunding varies widely, the common idea in all proposals is that by taking away money from the police department, more funds can be allocated to better serve the community.
“I wish that people would focus on adding the kinds of resources that disadvantaged communities are asking for — that’s where the attention of the defund police movement could do the most good. Because people living in those communities really don’t have a fair shot,” said Ben Struhl, executive director of the Center on Crime and Community Resilience at Northeastern University, in an interview for Northeastern’s communication department.
Who opposes this?
The obvious answer: the police. They are joined by community members and police unions, as well as others, who believe a stronger police force is necessary. The police union is one of the most vocal opponents of the proposals to defund the police.
In late June, proposals to defund the New York City Police Department came to fruition in their fiscal year 2021 budget where, when combined with associated costs, cuts to the budget would remove $1 billion from the NYPD’s spending. Changes that the cuts would bring include removing crossing guards from the NYPD, removing the NYPD from homeless outreach and replacing them with people trained to deal with the homeless and eliminating two of four NYPD classes.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, a police labor union, expressed an ominous warning after the budget cuts were released.
“Mayor de Blasio’s message to New Yorkers today was clear: you will have fewer cops on your streets...We will say it again: the Mayor and the City Council have surrendered the city to lawlessness. Things won’t improve until New Yorkers hold them responsible,” said Lynch in a statement.
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