When protesters cry ‘defund the police,’ what does it mean?

Protesters are pushing to “defund the police” over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement. Their chant has become a rallying cry — and a stick for President Donald Trump to use on Democrats as he portrays them as soft on crime.

But what does “defund the police” mean? It’s not necessarily about gutting police department budgets. Still, some activists and lawmakers have also raised the possibility of completely disbanding police departments, clouding the more complicated message.

WHAT IS THE ‘DEFUND THE POLICE’ MOVEMENT?

Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.

State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.

“Why can’t we look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities, so people don’t have to be in the streets during a national pandemic?” Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Activists acknowledge this is a gradual process.

The group MPD150, which says it is “working towards a police-free Minneapolis,” argues that such action would be more about “strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention.”

“The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises,” the group wrote on its website.

WHAT ARE LAWMAKERS SAYING?

Sen. Cory Booker said he understands the sentiment behind the slogan, but it’s not a slogan he will use.

The New Jersey Democrat told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he shares a feeling with many protesters that Americans are “over-policed” and that “we are investing in police, which is not solving problems, but making them worse when we should be, in a more compassionate country, in a more loving country.”

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