what does it really mean to defund the police?

tuesday June 9th 2020


14 days after George Floyd tragically lost his life at the hands of Police Officers in Minneapolis, the city’s council members have voted to disband the police.


But what does this actually mean?


"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.” 


The key fact to take away here is that the city’s council is planning to build a new system of community-focused public safety. Police are often responsible for a number of tasks that they're not even always trained for.  We’re talking about anything from performing homeless services, working with children in schools, responding to calls for mental health crises, performing welfare checks, mediating domestic disputes, and responding to drug overdoses. The idea is that the community would prefer to have specialists who are trained in these areas and therefore, would take non violent approaches to resolving said problems. 


On paper, many of us would champion this. Empower the community, increase safety. What’s not to love? However, it’s not without its issues. If they were to completely dismantle the police, it’s likely wealthy neighbourhoods wouldn’t take their chances and would enforce private armed security organisations anyways. On the opposite end of the spectrum, without state funded police, poorer neighbourhoods could have nowhere to turn at all, which may sound like the current state of affairs, but it could look even worse.


It's hard to tell how this will look in the future, even the city council said: “We recognise that we don’t have all the answers about what a police-free future looks like, but our community does” and we hope that they do. But, perhaps one of the ways these issues could be avoided would be if the police were actually trained in de escalation, instead of hours upon hours of weapon training. As it stands, more often than not, police are trained in shoot to kill tactics, as opposed to having any formal training in de escalating situations. In fact 34 of the 52 states don’t even require deescalation training of their police, which comes down to the fact that their training is predominantly left up to local agencies and has nothing to do with Federal law.  


So what do we do now? Well, to be honest, it’s a mess. Every state follows federal laws, but can also pretty much do whatever they please as they all have the "right to sovereign entity and are granted the power to create laws and regulate them according to their needs". So really, we’re not talking about one country's stance on how the police should operate, we’re talking about 52 smaller different countries. Which means our problem is far more complex than empty statements about disbanding, defunding or dismantling the police. In fact, this problem lies deep within the American fabric and the only way forward is to unpick it, rummage through it, tear it up and start again… MASA (Make America Start Again? Could work). 


In conclusion, what we really know is, it’s not just the police that are broken, the entire system is completely smashed up into pieces, and perhaps this time we can’t just tape it back together. Instead, what we must continue to do is pick apart everything they tell us, until we truly reach a result that benefits not just one sector of society, but all sectors.