Updated: Sep 18
The idea of defunding the police is simple and it will not necessarily lead to anarchy or chaos as so many think. Defunding the police is about recognizing that police departments are tasked with dealing with many of America’s most pressing issues, such as homelessness, domestic abuse, mental health, gang violence, drug dealing and possession, school security, theft, and many more. Even though the police must deal with these various issues, they are often not equipped to do so. However, that does not mean more officers should be hired or they should receive more money.
Cities across America need to direct their attention away from the enforcers and get to the root of the problems within their cities. The policemen and women who receive on average only 13-19 weeks of training are not equipped to deal with all the problems in their communities. Some of the money that the police receive should be reallocated into affordable housing, mental health programs, drug treatment programs, job training, counseling, violence prevention programs, and better education. These initiatives can more effectively put a stop to crime than throwing people in jail. In fact, studies have proven that jails fail to rehabilitate prisoners and many go back to a life of crime after their release. A study in 2018 by the The Department of Justice evaluated how many prisoners were rearrested during a nine year period from their release in 2005. The study showed that around 83% of prisoners were rearrested.
In the United States, around 100 billion dollars is spent on policing every year, an astronomical amount of money. By giving a fraction of these funds to communities, there could potentially be fewer drug abusers, more people with houses and jobs, and higher-achieving kids receiving a better education. In places like Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has already pledged to funnel 150 million dollars from the LAPD’s budget of almost 2 billion dollars to health and education programs. This is only 7.5 percent of the total budget, and yet if used responsibly, that little portion could lead to a happier and safer neighborhood.
Defunding the police is not an impossible task. We need to demand that our local officials simply give less money towards militarized equipment and more towards violence-prevention programs, or stop funding a police presence in schools and put more counselors there instead.
Many believe that the police have not done much good with their 100 billion dollars. Their presence does not always stop crime, they merely police it. Furthermore, the American police system originally started as a corrupt organization. In the South, it began as a slave patrol, and in the North, police were hired to harass or intimidate one’s opposing political party members. The police were also hired to protect property and control the working class or poorer citizens. Oftentimes, in northern cities, African Americans were a significant part of the poorer working class. While there may have been changes to the police system over time, its racist, corrupt, and classist legacy still shines through in most parts of the country. Today, police in certain districts oppress Black people in drastically disproportionate numbers by charging them for petty crimes, killing unarmed men and women even for non-violent offenses, and over-policing predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Recent protests in American cities are not new, but they have brought these inequalities to the forefront of discussion. People are now demanding a change to police forces that were built on racism and corruption. In recent news, we see incidents of the police killing innocent men, throwing protesters into unmarked vans, and creating what some people consider a police state. A study in 2017 on police violence found that 1 in 1000 black men can expect to be killed by law enforcement. We must be reminded that if you are white it is a privilege to ask, “Who will defend us without the police?” rather than, “Who will defend us from the police?”