Defunding the Police May Be Exactly What Some American Communities Need
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
After weeks of protests in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed, Minneapolis City Council has pledged to dissolve the city's police department and introduce a new public safety and crisis management measures.
The idea had been gaining traction years before, after the anti-police brutality riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. But what does defunding the police really mean?
The idea is not as radical as it seems.
The concept has multiple interpretations, and exists on a spectrum, but involves a transition to community-led public safety, which black communities have relied on for years to navigate problems in their communities.
Instead of relying on the police, who usually meet crises with excessive violence, “first responders should be mental health providers, social workers, victim advocates and other community members in less visible roles”, according to CNN.
The idea also echoes the belief that police are cleanup, and not prevention. Instead of divesting funds to police departments who overpolice black and brown communities, the money can be invested into areas that are disproportionately affected by poverty. Such investing helps destroy the school-to-prison pipeline, where minority children face much harsher punishments than their white counterparts for minor offenses and problems that should be dealt with in their school, and not by the police.
Some people, however, still believe that police reform is the only way to go. In fact, police reforms were introduced after the killing of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old African-American man in Minneapolis. The Minneapolis reforms became a model for police reforms throughout America.
After his killing, “police officers received implicit bias training and body cameras. The department appointed its first black police chief. Community policing was emphasized. Policies were rewritten to include a “duty to intervene” if an officer saw a colleague endangering a member of the public.”
Despite these reforms, “in Minneapolis, “when the police get physical — with kicks, neck holds, punches, shoves, takedowns, Mace, Tasers or other forms of muscle — nearly 60 percent of the time the person subject to that force is black,” according to Vox.
After watching the video in which Floyd was suffocated by a knee to his neck, and the three other police officers stood by watching as their colleague did so, despite the pleading of bystanders to let him breathe, it is clear that police reform will not work in America. It has been tried, but ultimately, we need to start experimenting with other systems.
We as Americans need to critically think about how we have been taught to overly rely on the police and how the entire policing system relies on the ideals of punishment and violence rather than reform and improvement.
The racism and excessive use of violence lies in the history of the policing system. There are multiple factors that led to the creation of policing systems in America today, and one of them is slave patrols.
According to Slave Patrols: An Early Form of American Policing, America’s policing system has developed from practices used in early forms of slave patrol. After the abolition of slavery, the patrols simply took new forms such as departments that enforced segregation, surveillance, and vigilantism like the KKK.
It simply is not fair to expect communities that have never benefited from the police, and have historically been targeted against by them, to go along with police reforms. It’s time to listen to the underprivileged, and amplify their voices.