Even though the idea of defunding the police is simple, practical, and much more reasonable than many would expect, the three-word phrase can still be a little scary to some ("So it's just The Purge but expecting, somehow, less crime?"). The slogan, while sufficiently succinct and direct, doesn't tell the full story of what defunding the police means in a practical sense. To define it, we first have to explain what it doesn't mean: ending the police forever.
Some people are calling for that, but that's an entirely different argument. It's more about questioning the role police have in our society because whatever it is now clearly isn't working. Put simply, defunding police just means rerouting the billions of dollars that flow toward American police departments and using it to provide a better living environment for communities. The idea is that by giving desperate people places and services that will help them when they need it, we'll be collectively eliminating the cause of many crimes before they even begin instead of punishing them, often brutally, afterward.
American police officers have been trained as, essentially, a domestic military force that has been given the weaponry and tanks to match. You don't send the guy who's been trained to think American citizens are the enemy to solve delicate problems. No one with a gun and training to kill should be tasked with checking in on someone with mental health issues, for example. For decades, local governments in red and blue states have been defunded or straight-up eliminating programs that could help people, then they shift those duties to cops, who have no idea how to handle these situations. The "Defund the Police" movement is ultimately about course correction. Imagine having actual public safety though care for our citizens instead of a system that patiently waits to beat people senseless when someone who deserves help doesn't get any. Capitol violence will never be the deterrent some people think it is or hope it can be.
The police are not a multitool. They are hammers that are being tasked to do a scalpel's work, then a screwdriver's, then a blender's. Defunding them isn't a grand societal upheaval. It's just about prioritizing care over punishment. Punishment hasn't been working too well. So why don't we try caring for citizens for a little while instead?
If you want to find out more about defending the police, try reading "The End of Policing" by Alex S. Vitale. The eBook is free on the publisher's website.
Luis can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Catch him on the "In Broad Daylight" podcast with Cracked alums Adam Tod Brown and Ian Fortey! Check out his regular contributions to Macaulay Culkin's BunnyEars.com and his "Meditation Minute" segments on the Bunny Ears podcast. Listen to the first episode on Youtube!