“There is no magic switch to turn off and boom there’s no police department,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College, whose 2017 book “The End of Policing” has become a manifesto for protesters and police-reform advocates.
“People are trying to figure out what kind of society would be possible that doesn’t rely on police and prisons to solve its problems, and that’s a long-term political vision that is important to this movement. But if you look at what people are doing on the ground, it’s taking money for gang enforcement and spending it on after-school programs and youth counselors. It’s about going to budget hearings and lobbying city council members and holding town hall meetings in neighborhood centers.”
Driving this effort is a realization that police use of deadly force against black people has not abated in the six years since a string of killings of black men by police ignited a national call for more police training and accountability.
Instead of trying to change things from within — a process that funneled more resources to police departments — the defund movement calls for reducing communities’ reliance on police for a number of services: monitoring the homeless, resolving domestic quarrels, disciplining students, responding to outbursts by people with mental illness, swarming neighborhoods to tamp down violence and responding to minor complaints like someone trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill, the accusation that triggered the police call that ended in Floyd’s death.
That work, advocates say, could be better done by outreach workers, social workers and community workers trained to de-escalate street feuds. That could be paid for by diverting money from police budgets to municipal programs that deal with underlying causes of crime, including poverty, inadequate housing and poor education.
“When we talk about defunding the police, what we're saying is invest in the resources that our communities need,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza told NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “So much of policing right now is generated and directed towards quality-of-life issues, homelessness, drug addiction, domestic violence. … But what we do need is increased funding for housing, we need increased funding for education, we need increased funding for quality of life of communities who are over-policed and over-surveilled.”
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