With the phenomenal rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's death, sparking protests and celebrities to speak out on racism, it's likely you'll have heard calls from activists to 'defund the police' in America. But what does that actually mean?
If your first thought was "Surely it's not safe to get rid of all police officers? Won't crime rates go through the roof?" then you're likely not alone – but that isn't what defunding the police means, or what protestors are asking for. It's far less extreme.
Defunding the police refers to restructuring the organisation from the inside-out and redistributing the funds that police get, instead investing them into other services, such as mental health support teams, housing options in poorer areas and domestic violence experts.
A key part of it is questioning whether police are really the only answer when it comes to preventing crime and keeping people safe, and saying 'no' to further adding to their budgets.
One part of the defunding initiative proposes that officers will no longer attend incidents that can be seen to by others with more specific training in that area e.g. instead of forcefully moving a homeless person along, somebody who works in housing support or mental health will respond to a call of that nature.
Proponents also want more money to be given to community programmes over police resources, such as after school clubs, which in turn will help to keep young people off the street (especially in areas where they could be introduced to crime) and also give jobs to those in the local area.
“People across the country are ready for a defunding framework,” says Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and founder of Reform LA Jails, in a report from TIME. “Police should not be in charge of mental health crises, dealing with homelessness... in charge of ‘supporting’ people with drug dependency and addiction. Those are three line items which we can cut out of the police budget and then put that back into health care.”
Various cities in America have responded to calls to defund the police in different ways – in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that up to $150 million could be cut from police budgets and redirected elsewhere. In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, city council members have backed calls to dismantle the police department and begin afresh with a community-based approach.
The Radical Left Democrats new theme is “Defund the Police”. Remember that when you don’t want Crime, especially against you and your family. This is where Sleepy Joe is being dragged by the socialists. I am the complete opposite, more money for Law Enforcement! #LAWANDORDER— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
President Donald Trump however, has tweeted his displeasure at the idea and instead stated that he wanted more money to be given to law enforcement. "The Radical Left Democrats new theme is “Defund the Police”. Remember that when you don’t want Crime, especially against you and your family. This is where Sleepy Joe is being dragged by the socialists. I am the complete opposite, more money for Law Enforcement!"
Over here in the UK, police budgets are not being questioned in the same way, but there are major calls for more investment to be given to mental health services, youth-focussed programmes, affordable housing and employment opportunities, all of which disproportionately affect non-white people.
British activists are also angered that tax payer money was still being used (up until 2015) to repay debts racked up when the government pledged to pay former slave owners compensation for "loss of property", after slavery was abolished. Yes, you read that correctly.
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