While the concept of “defunding” typically means eliminating funding for a body or initiative completely, recent efforts to “defund the police” make the case for slashing funding to law enforcement and seeing that money redirected to more community-based initiatives.
One petition, launched by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and calling for local governments to defund the police, has received widespread attention. It already has signatures from high-profile celebrities including John Legend, Megan Rapinoe, Lizzo, The Weeknd, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Jameela Jamil, Yara Shahidi, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Anthony Romero and others.
Instead of giving law enforcement departments bigger budgets, the petition states, governments should be cutting spending redirecting it to education, healthcare and community-based initiatives.
Specifically, it calls on the public to demand that local officials “defund the police” to “defend black lives” by taking the following actions:
– Vote no on all increases to police budgets
– Vote yes to decrease police sending and budgets
– Vote yes to increase spending on Healthcare, Education, and Community Programs that keep Black Communities nationwide safe
Julia Salazar, a New York state senator and Democratic socialist, recently told The Guardian the movement to defund the police is not just popular among celebrities and activists, but is also gaining steam among legislators.
“To see legislators who aren’t even necessarily on the left supporting at least a significant decrease in New York police department [NYPD] funding is really very encouraging,” Salazar told the British newspaper on Tuesday. “It feels a little bit surreal.”
In some cities, efforts to turn that notion into action are already underway, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announcing on Wednesday that he would be making cuts of up to $150 million to the police budget and reinvesting those funds in black communities.
There may be a silent majority in opposition to these celebrities and politicians, though. From the GSS (thanks to t for the heads up), the percentages who support decreasing funding to the police are shown in red. Percentages in favor of increasing funding are displayed in green. Those who would prefer spending remain the same are not shown:
Poor young black men, the demographic with the rockiest relationship with police, are still four to five times as likely to support an increase in police funding as they are to support a reduction in it. Perhaps the especially repulsive video of the cop with his knee on the helpless and immobile late George Floyd has moved the needle in the direction of defunding, but that needle has a lot of moving to do.
In the spirit of American federalism, I support municipalities diverting police funding to other programs deemed more beneficial to other priorities in their communities. I’m skeptical doing so will reduce crime and defuse tensions–de-policing cities like Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death didn’t appear to–but I’d be happy to be proved wrong. If these progressive cities make it work, they will provide a template for other places to follow and we’ll all be better for it.
GSS variables used: RACECEN1(1)(2)(4-10), HISPANIC(1)(2-50), PARTYID(0-1)(2-4)(5-6), SEX, CLASS, AGE, SPPOLICE(1-2)(4-5), YEAR(2006-2016)