This week on the podcast, we’re joined by Peter Loge, the founding Director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication, associate professor, and lifelong political operative. We discuss ethical communication in politics through civility, respect, and speaking the truth. Check out this excellent interview!
Speaking of ethics, we’re continuing our look at the massive civil unrest caused by police brutality nationwide. In our ongoing effort to provide the truth in our post-truth era, we’re using this week’s blog to clarify what the #DefundThePolice movement is actually about.
Defund the Police
The main idea is that we’re asking police to do too much. Dallas Police Chief David Brown noted in 2016, “Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it… Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem; let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail, let’s give it to the cops… That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.”
Brown’s exasperation is well-founded. As the budgets for programs designed to mitigate homelessness, combat drug addiction, or even catch stray dogs slim down, the police pick up the slack. Police are meant to safeguard society from explicitly criminal activity, and no one is saying they should stop doing that. At the same time, police are not adequately equipped to deal with mental health crises, and jails are not suitable for drug rehabilitation. Arresting a homeless person for being homeless does nothing to address the underlying causes of their homelessness.
By now, we’ve realized a more significant police state does not mean a safer world. Instead, as police forces around the country become more and more militarized, citizens—especially Black citizens—start to suffer more and more. For instance, in 2016, Columbus, MI spent nearly half of its general expenditures on policing. By the end of that year, crime hit a four-year high. America spends $115B on policing its citizens. In large cities, the police budget usually heavily outstrips other departments, despite (!) crime in America being at an extremely low level.
Defunding the police means taking some of their bloated budgets, and reallocating that funding to prevention, community engagement, mental health solutions, public housing, and other proven ways to increase the American quality of life. It is not the total abolition of the police force. The happier, healthier, and more well-educated we are, the fewer crimes we commit. When large-scale protests in all 50 states started several weeks ago, defunding the police as an idea and a movement began to take hold.
What might a world with a smaller police presence look like? According to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we already have it in certain parts of the country. “It looks like a suburb,” she recently wrote on Instagram. “Affluent white communities already live in a world where they choose to fund youth, health, housing etc [sic] more than they fund police. These communities have lower crime rates not because they have more police but bc [sic] they have more resources to support a healthy society in a way that reduces crime. When a teen or a preteen does something harmful in a suburb (I say teen because this is often when lifelong carceral cycles begin for Black and Brown communities), white communities bend over backwards to find alternatives to incarceration for their loved ones to “protect their future”, like community service or rehab or restorative measures.”
Crime will always exist and we’re never going to abolish the police. Changing the way we use them as San Francisco has just announced, will make healthier communities, and save the lives of Americans like George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and far, far too many others.
Brady Dennis, Mark Berman. “Dallas Police Chief Says ‘We’re Asking Cops to Do Too Much in This Country’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 July 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/grief-and-anger-continue-after-dallas-attacks-and-police-shootings-as-debate-rages-over-policing/.
Brooks, Justin, et al. “Defund the Police Now.” The Appeal, theappeal.org/defund-police-george-floyd/.
“Bureau of Justice Statistics Home Page.” Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), bjs.gov/.
The Center for Popular Democracy, FREEDOM TO THRIVEREIMAGINING SAFETY & SECURITY IN OUR COMMUNITIES.
“CITY OF COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI AUDITED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 .” Columbus, MI, 2016.
“Defund the Police .” Black Lives Matter , Black Lives Matter, blacklivesmatter.com/defundthepolice/.
Lothian-McLean, Moya. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has the Perfect Two-Word Answer to: ‘What Does Defunding the Police Look like?’.” indy100, indy100, 12 June 2020, www.indy100.com/article/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-deund-police-black-lives-matter-aoc-9562736.
“Mayor London Breed Announces Roadmap for New Police Reforms | Office of the Mayor.” Office of the Mayor, sfmayor.org/article/mayor-london-breed-announces-roadmap-new-police-reforms.
Mosendz, Polly, and Jameelah D Robinson. “America’s Policing Budget Has Nearly Tripled to $115 Billion.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 4 June 2020, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-04/america-s-policing-budget-has-nearly-tripled-to-115-billion.
“Statistics Don’t Support Claims of Rising Crime.” The Commercial Dispatch, www.cdispatch.com/news/article.asp?aid=66898.
Stuart, Tessa. “A Practical Guide to Defunding the Police.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 10 June 2020, www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/defund-the-police-1007254/.