Defund the Police: A Manifesto
America is a country that is constantly chasing safety. Billions of dollars have gone to this effort to keep us safe from “others,” taking the form of the massive police force on the streets every day to instill “Law and Order.” Law enforcement is billed as the first line of defense in the people’s struggle for safety, but amid the civil rights revolution of 2020, this view has changed rapidly, leading many Americans to question if the police were keeping us safe in the first place. As police misconduct reaches historical levels of scrutiny, there is a growing awareness of how much money the police receive each year, giving rise to a potential solution: what if we defunded the police? “Each year, state and local governments spend upward of $100 billion dollars on law enforcement—and that’s excluding billions more in federal grants and resources.” Although it appears radical, the concept of defunding the police is another way of saying divest and reinvest. A similar concept is how many people and companies have divested from fossil fuels and invested in green energy. When something stops working, or never worked in the first place, the practical response is to divest and invest in something better. Practically speaking, defunding the police would entail taking the huge budgets from police departments and putting them into programs that would prevent crimes from happening in the first place. Most aspects of an officer’s job can be easily replaced with a better-trained counterpart. The police are not trained for social work and tend to escalate situations. Primarily, police respond to the aftermath of a situation once it can no longer be fixed, contradicting the idea that police prevent crime. While their failures in social work are enough basis to call for police divestment, one of the most prominent reasons is their legacy of racial disparity. From the inception of the police as slave patrols, law enforcement has been ingrained with racism, which accounts for why the majority of police surveillance happens in Black and Brown communities. Consequently, Black and Brown communities face more police harassment, brutality, and murder at the hand of police than their white counterparts. Rather than having their own tax dollars fund police misconduct, the money could go toward social programs aimed at preventing poverty, addiction, homelessness, and other struggles that lead individuals to resort to crime for survival.
Divesting And Investing
Divesting and investing will take an immense amount of work, but there are comprehensive steps to make this happen. First and most important is ending the police unions, which only exist to absolve offending police officers of accountability for their actions, specifically through qualified immunity. When this initial major step happens, the following steps will be easier to implement:
1. Cut the budgets of police departments nationwide.
2. Invest that money in comprehensive social services for mental health, addiction, school counseling, domestic violence, and more.
3. Remove heavy police presence from Black and Brown communities.
4. Develop unarmed mobile response units that can deal with mental health and domestic calls.
5. Train and implement unarmed traffic control units whose sole focus is road safety.
6. Create strict use of force rules for police officers.
7. Create new police training programs that do not indoctrinate fear.
8. End any mechanisms in policing that allow for racial profiling.
Defunding the police is really about shifting taxpayer funds toward more efficient programs. It is about creating truly safe communities. It is about ending police violence, ending discrimination, and ending the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people in this country. Safe communities start with a focus on what the community needs, not with how many more police can be added to patrols there. Crime is a problem that will not be solved with more police, but rather a problem that will be solved with community engagement and resources for those who need them. We all want safety and security. This starts with defunding the police.