Protest against police violence (cropped), taken by Fibonacci Blue
According to Brookings, the phrase “defund the police” means “reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department to other government agencies funded by the local municipality.” It does not mean abolishing policing and all departments, nor does it mean dissolving police unions. Defunding police means fiscal responsibility, advocating for a market-driven approach to taxpayer money, and potential benefits that will reduce police violence.
This movement came into the limelight once again after the police officer-involved murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Mr. Floyd was pinned down by three officers after being arrested on suspicion of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. An officer was kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, and ultimately took his life.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 9 out of 10 police calls are non-violent in nature. Now, this does not mean that a call would not turn violent after police arrive, but the nature and extent of contact between police officers and residents varies by whether the contact was initiated by the police or by the resident. Non-violent calls can range from putting cones out by a large pothole to welfare checks. Police officers are mostly trained in use-of-force tactics for worst-case scenarios, however, most of their interactions with civilians start peacefully.
Advocates who wish to “defund the police” wish to see the funding reallocated or redirected toward social services in order to better serve the non-violent calls. Reallocating police funding could improve mental health crises, addiction problems, and even homelessness.
Some local governments have already taken steps to reallocate police funding, including Los Angeles, CA, Baltimore, MD, and Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed.