Things That Matter

This Is What Protesters Actually Mean When They’re Calling For Cities To ‘Defund The Police’

It’s no secret – the U.S. is at a reflection point. For generations, Black Americans have had to endure a system built to support and encourage white supremacy. Unarmed black man after unarmed black man have been harassed by white Americans and shot dead by police, leading to mass protests across the country.

However, this time seems different. The fatal arrest of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented, nationwide response that’s included peaceful protests, violent clashes involving overzealous cops, incidents of looting — and demands from activists to “defund the police.”

But what does “defund the police” mean? It’s not necessarily about gutting police department budgets.

George Floyd’s murder has led to a rapid shift in thinking about the role police play in cities across the country. The phrase “Defund the police” has entered the mainstream but it’s also stirred up plenty of controversy and become a rallying cry against Democrats for those on the right.

As the protests have gathered in strength and size, more and more people are talking about defunding, dismantling, abolishing, and reimagining what police forced should look like.

Defunding the police is shorthand for a divest and invest model: divesting money from local and state police budgets and reinvesting it into communities, mental health services, and social service programs – so that there is less need for actual police officers.

Most experts agree that police are currently tasked with too many different jobs – which contributes to outsized police budgets.

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It’s no secret that America has come to rely on it’s more than 18,000 police agencies to do a lot more than actual police work. Officers these days are charged with fighting terrorism, acting as liaisons with homeless communities, working with children in school, responding to calls for mental health crises, performing welfare checks and social work, mediating domestic disputes, and responding to drug overdoses. Most of the time, officers have no training in any of these situations which can lead to conflicts.

As the police take on more work, their budgets have also grown substantially. The U.S. spends an estimated $100 billion on their police forces annually, with another $80 billion spent on incarceration. Policing typically accounts for one-third to 60% of American cities’ annual budgets. 

Those who call for police defunding say they would rather have some duties handled by nonviolent specialists trained in social work, education, or drug counseling.

From New York to LA, some cities are already taking measures to redirect police department budgets. But will it be enough?

For example, in New York City, the NYPD enjoys a $6 billion budget. Yes, that’s billion with a B. It’s easily takes up the largest chunk of the city’s budget. In fact, the NYPD gets more money than homeless services, housing development and upkeep, youth and community services, health and hospitals, and parks and recreation combined.  

In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday pledged to shift an unspecified amount of the NYPD’s $6 billion annual budget to “youth initiatives and social services,” saying, “Policing matters for sure, but the investments in our youth are foundational.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also said last week he would cut the city’s police budget by as much as $150 million to help fund $250 million for youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers” — reversing an April plan to increase spending on the LAPD by 7 percent.

Why not just reform police and provide more training?

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Those who are against defunding the police say that advocated should focus on legal oversight and reform. But it’s become obvious over decades of police brutality and systemic racism, that police reform and new regulations and laws cannot and have not stopped the police from illegally killing citizens.

You have to look no further than the city of Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered by the city’s police. The city had instituted major reforms in the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri protests and President Obama’s task force. New rules implemented by the city required bias and de-escalation training and the use of body cameras. It tightened its use-of-force standards, diversified its leadership, and started collecting demographic data. In 2015, it spent $4.75 million on a project led by procedural reformer Phillip Atiba Goff to strengthen the ties between the police and community.

And yet George Floyd, and so many others, are still dead.

There’s Still More To Do But Black Lives Matter Protests Have Resulted In These Major Police Reforms

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There’s Still More To Do But Black Lives Matter Protests Have Resulted In These Major Police Reforms

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the country has struggled with how to best respond to police brutality and racial inequality. Millions of Americans (and millions more around the world) have poured into the streets demanding justice and police accountability.

Although more Black Americans have been killed by police since the death of George Floyd – and long before him – police reform is finally starting to take shape. Several communities across the United States are discussing ways to defund and restructure their police forces and their entire approach to supporting and protecting communities.

Although several victories have already been won, there is still so much work to do to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter.

Minneapolis will defund and dismantle their police force.

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to change the city charter to allow the Police Department to be dismantled – this is the first step in removing the police force.

The 12-0 vote is just the first step in a process that still faces significant obstacles to make the November ballot, where the city’s voters would have the final say. Activists have long accused the department of being unable to change a racist and brutal culture, and earlier this month, a majority of the council proclaimed support for dismantling the department.

Draft language of the amendment posted online would replace the department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, “which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach

Cities such as New York and Los Angeles are defunding their police departments.

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Aside from completely dismantling the police, several major cities have committed to defunding their police departments. “Defund the police” has become a common protest chant, as protesters want to see the billions of dollars spent on police equipment and enforcement to instead be spent on investing in communities.

Several jurisdictions have implemented total bans on the police use of choke holds – like the one that killed Eric Gardner.

The NYPD has long banned the use of chokeholds, however, their ban is so often ignored by officers that viral videos of NYPD cops using the deadly maneuver are common. But the New York City Council has just adopted an ordinance that officially makes police use of a chokehold a misdemeanor offense.

The legal ban has already been put into action as an NYPD officer was caught on video using one against a suspect. That officer has already been fired and charged.

Although several police departments have long banned the chokehold – for example, the LAPD banned them 40 years ago – cities are now starting to actually attempt to enforce the ban with legal consequences.

For the first time in decades, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a police reform bill.

Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to address racial inequities in policing, despite strong public sentiment for effective reform after Floyd died in Minneapolis as a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In June, the House passed sweeping legislation to address racial inequality in policing but the bill is all but dead on arrival in the Senate, and has a formal veto threat from Trump.

The bill addresses chokeholds, no-knock warrants, police body cameras, use of deadly force, and training to de-escalate confrontations with suspects and to encourage officer intervention against illegal conduct as it occurs.

And one thing is clear – these reforms have the support of most Americans.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Most Americans believe that change must be made to law enforcement across the nation and that reforms are needed to reduce police brutality against Black Americans.

The poll, which was conducto de by Ipsos on behalf of Public Agenda and USA TODAY, found that about three in four people surveyed say racial bias against Black Americans is a serious problem in the U.S.

The poll found several reforms that focused around training and diversity in policing had support from three-quarters or more of respondents: requiring all officers to undergo training on de-escalation tactics to avoid the use of force, requiring all officers to undergo training on how to be less racially biased and recruiting more Black Americans to become police officers.

Even more popular: transparency reforms. Nine in 10 respondents supported having officers wear body cameras, 8 in 10 supported requiring police departments to publicly report all incidents involving the use of force within 72 hours, and nearly as many supported creating a national public database of officers who have used excessive force – and prohibiting other jurisdictions from rehiring them.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

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Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

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Law enforcement in Los Angeles is facing budget cuts already because demonstrators are keeping up the pressure for police reform. COVID-19 has added pressure to Los Angeles County to make some additional cuts and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning what the cuts mean to the department at large.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning residents about the impact of the proposed budget cuts.

Sheriff Villanueva issued a statement titled “DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET $145.4 M.” In the letter, Sheriff Villanueva warns that the budget cuts will lead to the elimination of the Special Victims Bureau. The bureau is responsible for investigating the physical or sexual abuse of children and women. The sheriff names other departments that will be eliminated in response to the upcoming budget cuts.

“It’s unconscionable,” Sheriff Villanueva told CBS Los Angeles. “These are the major detective units of the entire department. They serve the entire county of Los Angeles. Those four units…are the cream of the crop of investigative units throughout the entire nation, and as the largest county in the nation, I cannot see how we move forward without these four units,” he said.

The sheriff took the time to attack the “Defund the Police” movement.

“The CEO and the Board have embraced the “Defund the Police” movement and are cynically hiding behind accounting maneuvers, knowing well that loss of revenue in sales tax can be made up by equitable distributing more stable revenue streams like property taxes,” reads part of Sheriff Villanueva’s statement. “This is not acceptable and a willful abandonment of the top priorities of local government: keep people safe.”

Sheriff Villanueva is also refusing to enforce orders to close the beaches for the 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles County.

Sheriff Villanueva told the press that his department was not included in talks about the closure so the sheriff’s office will not enforce the order. Los Angeles County is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases as the rest of California deals with the same. The Los Angeles Health Department ordered the beaches, piers, and boardwalks closed for the holiday weekend to fight the sudden spike in cases.

“Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and protect our residents from a deadly virus,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19.” 

Sheriff Villanueva’s actions as sheriff are making some Los Angeles County residents wanting him to leave the office.

At the beginning of his term as sheriff, Villanueva rehired a police officer who was fired for domestic violence allegations. The police officer who was rehired set off a legal battle that landed in court with a judge having to decide whether or not to let the police officer stay.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff handed down an injunction ordering rehired police officer Caren Carl Mandoyan to surrender his gun and badge. Additionally, the judge ordered, “Sheriff Alex Villanueva cease to recognize or hold Mandoyan out as a Deputy Sheriff or a County employee.”

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