Defunding the police means different things to different people but the simplest definition is to transfer funding from police departments to housing, social workers, mental health experts, and other community resources.
Some fans of police defunding believe some funding should be kept with police departments staying as they are, while others would add bias training, body cameras and more to reform the police.
A third group views defunding the police as a step toward getting rid of police departments and the whole prison system completely.
64% of Americans are against the idea of defunding the police and 34% support it. Around 97% of police budgets are put towards operational costs.
This includes police salaries and benefits. Individual counties and cities might allocate more than this to police departments.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of defunding the police:
Defunding the Police: Pros
Starting with pros:
Avoid oppressive and violent acts
It is believed that the violent, oppressive acts against overall crime and people of color have become normalized.
Police departments have surplus military equipment to hand, meaning additional fire power as well as the belief that they are at war with American communities.
This can lead to violence.
Other reforms have not worked
Throughout history, the police have been accused of misconduct including criminal neglect, attempted rape and oppression.
The Black Lives Matter organization perhaps identifies the strongest with this.
The Minneapolis Police Department, for example, is viewed as a model of police reform with implicit bias training, de-escalation and mindfulness.
Warrior-style policing is banned while the use of body cameras is encouraged.
This can identify problem officers and help reconciliation efforts in areas with ethnic minorities.
Research shows that black American males are 2½ times as likely to be killed by a police officer than white American males, and American females are nearly 1½ times as likely to be killed as their white counterparts.
Police are perhaps twice as likely to use force against someone of color as someone who is white.
It is believed that defunding the police can lead to less violence from police as well as fewer crimes.
When NYC police pulled out of ‘broken windows’ policing focusing on low-level crimes, there were 2100 fewer major crimes reported.
Not actively patrolling for minor crimes means not so many opportunities for violence.
Police aren’t trained for their full roles
Although the police are trained, this training doesn’t include all the jobs they have to perform.
Defunding means experts can step in and issues such as domestic disputes, mental illness, homelessness, neighbors playing loud music, barking dogs, and some non-criminal acts can be addressed in a much better way.
Historically these were not issues meant for the police to solve.
Defunding the Police: Cons
And now let’s take a look at some cons of defunding the police:
Taxation by Citation
When budget cuts occur, civilian injuries and violence increase, meaning officers might be paid less for what they do, especially those in areas populated by people of color or those in a smaller jurisdiction.
Poor wages force many police offices to take a second job, leaving them unprepared to deal with stress as an officer and leaving them over-tired with poor morale.
This can result in citation taxation, meaning departments take a cut of each citation written in order to raise funds.
These tickets can cost more than anticipated, such as a $100 traffic citation resulting in not only $100 in state assessment costs but also $70 in county assessment fees, in addition to court construction and emergency medical fees.
This means a $100 fine for running a red light can end up costing the citizen $400 or $500 in all.
It’s fair to say communities of color are less likely to be equipped to pay these huge fines.
Police misconduct is exaggerated
Many people believe the level of police misconduct is exaggerated and more police are called on in high-crime areas.
Rising crime rates and police corruption can result in police departments being debanded.
De-escalation training can mean another officer being allowed to step in if a colleague is using unreasonable force.
There has been a drop of some 30% in shootings lately, especially in big cities.
Black Lives Matter activists as well as others have been pushing for de-escalation as well as more accountability and stricter policies about using force.
If police departments are reformed in order to focus on black neighborhoods the same way they focus on white ones, it’s believed violence would decrease as a result.
Officers patrolling black neighborhoods tend to focus on drug and traffic stops, leading to under-policing.
Standardizing is better than disbanding
One school of thought is in favor of standardizing national regulations as opposed to completely disbanding police departments, in order to make them complicit with human rights laws on an international level.
The Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI, is in favor of several reforms on a federal level including the establishment of national benchmarks plus best practices for tribal, local, state, and federal police departments.
There are 58 additional reform suggestions including ending military equipment transfers to police departments, laws banning lethal force, a policy on use of force, and mandatory racial bias training.
Police in countries other than the United States don’t get to carry guns or use chokeholds.
Their use of force policies are much stricter than those of the US.
For example an offer must obtain supervisor approval before using deadly force in Finland, while officers in Spain have to fire a warning shot or aim at a non-critical body part before employing lethal force.
European police officers train for 36 months on average which is longer than the 19 months American offers have to train.
Such policies tend to result in fewer civilian deaths in those countries.
Joe Biden claims to support the urgent need for reform and a campaign spokesman says he is opposed to defunding.
Donald Trump was also against defunding and dismantling police departments.
When all is said and done, it seems there are good arguments for both sides – defunding and not defunding, and there are certainly many Americans who have a strong opinion one way or the other.