• Rebecca Schneider

WHAT EXACTLY IS #Defundthepolice?

Not sure what #defundthepolice actually means?


Defunding the police does not mean stripping a department entirely of its budget, or abolishing it altogether. It’s just about scaling police budgets back and reallocating those resources to other agencies.

A lot of what we advocate for is investment in community services — education, medical access… You can call it ‘defunding,’ but it’s just about directing or balancing the budget in a different way.

- Lynda Garcia, policing campaign director at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.


Watch these clips from late night hosts break down recent events and then scroll down for more information and further reading

Stephen Colbert breaks down what #DefundingthePolice actually means.


John Oliver discusses how the histories of policing and white supremacy are intertwined, the roadblocks to fixing things, and some potential paths forward.




The concept is simple: When cities start investing in community services, they reduce the need to call police in instances when police officers’ specific skill set isn’t required.

"If someone is dealing with a mental health crisis, or someone has a substance abuse disorder, we are calling other entities that are better equipped to help these folks," Garcia says.

When people get the specific help they need earlier, they’re less likely to end up in the kind of dangerous situation police might be called to defuse — situations that often turn deadly for those individuals.

Police themselves will admit this — that they are being called to respond to situations beyond the scope of their job.

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.

- Dallas Police Chief David Brown said in 2016


At first glance, it appears to be a reaction to police brutality, but its origin runs deeper: left-leaning activists and academics have argued for decades that the U.S. spends far too much on security and not enough on social welfare.

  • At all levels of government, the U.S. spends roughly double on police, prisons, and courts what it spends on food stamps, welfare, and income supplements, The Atlantic reports.


CNN interviewed a team of experts to break down what Defunding the Police really means:


Does defunding the police mean disbanding the police?

with Philip McHarris, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Yale University and lead research and policy associate at the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability


Some supporters of divestment want to reallocate some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services. Some want to strip all police funding and dissolve departments.

  • The concept exists on a spectrum, but both interpretations center on reimagining what public safety looks like, he said.

It also means dismantling the idea that police are "public stewards" meant to protect communities. Many Black Americans and other people of color don't feel protected by police, McHarris said.


Why defund police?


McHarris says divesting funds ends the culture of punishment in the criminal justice system. And it's one of the only options local governments haven't tried in their attempts to end deaths in police custody.


Isaac Bryan, the director of UCLA's Black Policy Center, points to history:

Law enforcement in the South began as slave patrol, a team of vigilantes hired to recapture escaped slaves. Then, when slavery was abolished, police enforced Jim Crow laws -- even the most minor infractions. And today, police disproportionately use force against black people, and black people are more likely to be arrested and sentenced.
"That history is engrained in our law enforcement," Bryan said.

Further Reading on the History of policing in the United States

Not just George Floyd: Police departments have 400-year history of racism (USA Today)

The racist roots of American policing: From slave patrols to traffic stops (The Conversation)

The History of Policing in the United States (EKU Online)

The ugly history of racist policing in America (Vox)

How racist policing took over American cities, explained by a historian (Vox)

Resources to teach history of policing

(The Washington Post)

Early Police in the United States (Britannica)

Slave Patrols: An Early Form of American Policing (Law Enforcement Museum)


Where would those funds go?

Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement

Defunding law enforcement "means that we are reducing the ability for law enforcement to have resources that harm our communities," Cullors said in an interview with WBUR, Boston's public radio station. "It's about reinvesting those dollars into black communities, communities that have been deeply divested from."


Those dollars can be put back into social services for mental health, domestic violence and homelessness, among others. Police are often the first responders to all three, she said.
Those dollars can be used to fund schools, hospitals, housing and food in those communities, too -- "all of the things we know increase safety," McHarris said.
Rather than "strangers armed with guns, first responders should be mental health providers, social workers, victim advocates and other community members in less visible roles."

It argues law and order isn't abetted by law enforcement, but through education, jobs and mental health services that low-income communities are often denied. MPD150 and other police abolition organizations want wider access to all three.


Minneapolis City Council members have pointed to a nonprofit crisis intervention program in Eugene, Oregon, as a model for reducing the responsibilities of the police. The nonprofit Cahoots has handled thousands of calls in the city since 1989, providing first aid, conflict mediation and crisis counseling, and has been able to do so on a budget of around $2 million, likely far less than what it would cost the police department to do the work, the program’s coordinator told the New York Times.


the Minneapolis City Council on Sunday pledged to disband its police department and invest in community-based public safety programs, though it’s not clear what the next steps will be


FURTHER READING