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  • On June 5th, the Washington DC mayor unveiled a statement, painted down the street leading

  • to the White House,

  • Black Lives Matter.”

  • Within 24 hours, Black Lives Matter activists responded with their own message:

  • Defund the Police.”

  • This slogan caught on rapidly among tens of thousands of people protesting police brutality

  • in the United States.

  • But what does it really mean to defund the police? And what if it's not as radical

  • as it sounds?

  • A city budget, a county budget, a state budget, a national budget are all markers of what

  • our societies are prioritizing. The US spends $100 billion every year

  • on policing. Most of which comes from local municipalities.

  • New York City, for example, appropriated $5.9 billion last year to the police department.

  • For comparison, here's what the city allocated for homeless services, health, housing, youth

  • and community development, and jobs programs. The disparities are huge, and they echo in

  • cities across the country. Like in Chicago, where the policing budget

  • is $1.7 billion. Nearly twice the budget of the Fire Department, Department

  • of Transportation, Public Library, and Public Health combined.

  • If you look at these budgets in the United States

  • What you'll see is that we have deeply de-prioritized providing people their basic needs. And instead,

  • we over prioritize punishing human beings.

  • The emphasis on policing in the US has led to over-policing and underpolicing all at

  • once. The police arrests over 10 million people

  • in a year. And the vast majority of those arrests, especially in black and poor neighborhoods,

  • are for minor offenses, like drug possession or drinking in public. That heavy-handed approach

  • is over-policing.

  • But when it comes to violent crime, the rate of police arrests is incredibly low. And

  • that's under-policing, which leaves communities of color underserved.

  • People believe that the police are deterring violence.

  • Clearly they're enacting violence, but are they also deterring violence.

  • And that's highly questionable.

  • A lot of research suggests they are having no influence whatsoever

  • So if they're having no influence whatsoever on the phenomena that they're supposed to

  • be influencing and they're doing violence, what purpose are they supposed to serve?

  • The repercussions of prioritizing the police

  • over other services can also be seen at schools in the US.

  • 1.7 million students are in schools with police, but no counselors. And 3 million

  • have police in schools, but no nurses. And when it comes to 911 calls, in many

  • cases, police officers are the first responders to mental health related emergencies.

  • That's important because one in every four deaths from police shootings are people with

  • mental health problems.

  • I can literally imagine you just replace someone with a weapon, with someone who will actually

  • sit down on the ground with them and talk. Not throw them on the ground and sit on top

  • of them or lay on top of them. But someone

  • who will take them wherever they are, listen to their situations and

  • then try to figure out, diagnose their problem.

  • Police are doing the jobs of what other groups of people and workers can be doing.

  • Being tasked with jobs they're not trained to do, is an idea some police officers acknowledge

  • too.

  • The need to rethink police budgets has become even more glaring in the middle of the coronavirus

  • pandemic. Many have called attention to the fact that

  • hospital workers struggle to get personal protective equipment. While thousands of

  • police officers have riot gear at the ready for protests.

  • Even in response to the pandemic, while many agencies grapple with coronavirus budget cuts,

  • police budgets have largely remained intact. New York City's proposal for the coming

  • fiscal year cuts only 5 percent of the NYPD budget.

  • But that same proposal, calls for a 12 percent cut to the Department of Health.

  • This is where the movement to defund the police comes in. It's a push to take the billions

  • of dollars cities spend on police, and move that funding to other services, like education,

  • housing, jobs or mental healthcare. At its core, the idea is to rethink public

  • safety because the current form of policing isn't built to serve everyone equally.

  • We live in an economy of punishment. We as in black people, as poor people, as in marginal

  • people, police are not used to keep us safe.

  • What we've seen over the last seven years is black people being killed, humiliated,

  • violated, sexually assaulted, maimed by law enforcement. We haven't seen it get any better.

  • Reimagining public safety in this moment is a matter of life or death.

  • For years, reforms like introducing police body cameras, have been proposed across

  • the country as a response to police brutality. But these reforms have only added more money

  • to police budgets, even when, as studies like this one in DC show, they haveno

  • detectable effect on police use of force”.

  • We absolutely need to try and hold law enforcement accountable. But what we've recognized is

  • all of our accountability measures, up until now have not worked.

  • In the case of Minneapolis, since 2016 their

  • police officers have received body cameras, bias training

  • and have a duty-to-intervene policy where other police officers

  • must step in if they see force applied inappropriately.

  • Yet, a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd as three officers looked on.

  • So this idea that we could reform an institution

  • that has a blue code of silence, that we can reform an institution

  • that is one of the most powerful unions, that is no longer the conversation.

  • But the calls to defund the police have been polarizing and have led

  • to some fears about how it might affect personal and public safety.

  • How do you defund or dismantle and keep people safe?

  • When we all dial 911, we need to know there's someone coming.

  • If you defund the police or diminish their ability to police their communities,

  • you're gonna have a warzone.

  • I think we often hear issues of safety for mostly white, affluent people. And I have

  • to remind those folks that their safety is predicated on the unsafety of black people.

  • Opponents of defunding the police have cautioned that after cities

  • like Memphis had to downsize their police force,

  • there was an increase in violent crime.

  • But proponents point to a major difference between defunding the police then, and now.

  • Today, it's not just about cutting police budgets. A key part of defunding is to

  • redistribute those resources and create better responses to crime.

  • That redistribution would still fund first responders, but could force cities to rethink

  • what kinds of responders would make communities safer for everyone.

  • Whether it's investing in a new crisis intervention team.

  • A mental health team.

  • Or social workers. In some cities, like Eugene, Oregon and Austin,

  • Texas, alternative models for safety have already been put in place to dispatch

  • mental health professionals to certain 911 calls, instead of the police.

  • And putting money into other agencies like housing and jobs to help people meet their

  • basic needs could also end up making communities safer.

  • So rather than have this, um, `I'm fearful of someone coming to take my stuff. Hey, can

  • I have a number that I can call, so somebody with some weapons can protect my stuff?` It's

  • more like if everyone had some stuff and if everyone had a reasonable existence, they

  • wouldn't be looking for anybody else's stuff and you wouldn't need to call anybody.

  • Black Lives Matter activists and local organizers across the country have been working to defund

  • the police for years. But for many, the calls todefund the policedon't

  • stop at scaling down the scope of what the police do.

  • It could also be a first step towards eventually abolishing the police as we know it.

  • You could think that the defund movement is the gateway to a broader discussion of reprioritization

  • One position of which is, abolition.

  • The details of a plan like this differ from city to city, but there is a shared purpose

  • of altering what public safety looks like in the US.

  • Defunding the police, even at its most basic, will still be a difficult battle

  • for activists on a national scale. One poll conducted in early June, found

  • that only about a quarter of Americans favored cutting funding for police departments.

  • But in parts of the country, it's already happening.

  • In Denver, the school district has broken their contract with the police department.

  • In Oakland, the school board pledged to do the same.

  • And in Minneapolis, the City Council voted to completely disband its police department,

  • and create a new model. All of these moves can be traced to continued

  • public pressure and protests against police brutality.

  • Protests which, in a matter of weeks, brought the slogan to 'defund the police' into

  • the mainstream.

  • This has been the most tragic three weeks and also the most inspiring three weeks. We

  • have seen death after death of black people. What are we going to do to be in defense

  • of black lives? That is the conversation we're asking. It's not just about black lives mattering.

  • That's not enough to claim that.

  • You have to step into a new role in protecting black people

  • and ensuring their lives are safe.

On June 5th, the Washington DC mayor unveiled a statement, painted down the street leading

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B1 INT police policing budget black safety black people

What "defund the police" really means

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    林宜悉   posted on 2020/09/03
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