What Does Defund The Police Mean

Photo by ev on Unsplash

I’m a 36-year-old white mother of four that lives in rural Idaho. There are a handful of black people in the town I live in. And by handful, I mean five.

Race issues aren’t at the forefront of things we deal with. We’re mostly Religious people who are earnestly trying to treat everyone equally. We make mistakes of course, but in terms of hate, there’s not much of that going on around here.

In the past few weeks, as race issues have dominated the country, I have found myself digging deep into how I feel about racism, and trying to see if any of it is planted in me. This has led me to study racial issues, the Black Lives Matter movement and their organization, and most recently, the Defund The Police campaign.

Instinctually, I believe that the Police are good. Growing up I was taught, probably like most other white middle-class people, that the Police are here to protect us. If we follow the law, we won’t have any trouble. I remember one time while I was driving in the car with my dad I saw a Police car and said: “Uh-oh the Po-Po!” I don’t know why I said that or even really what it meant. But my dad gave me a real good lecture about treating Policemen and women with respect and not using derogatory terms when we refer to them.

So, when I first saw the movement gain momentum, I had an almost knee jerk reaction against it. How stupid can we be? We need the police. They protect us. What do we want, anarchy? I had flashbacks to my high school English class and our discussion of Lord of the Flies.

My reaction told me that I needed an education. I needed to get to the bottom of the movement, to see what it really meant, and then I needed to decide whether I was for or against it.

Here is what I found out about what it really means to defund the police:

  1. IT DOESN’T MEAN ABOLISH POLICE

Defunding the police doesn’t mean abolishing them altogether (so stop sharing memes on Facebook talking about anarchy). What it means is reallocating funds. In some cities, the Police Force takes up more of the annual budget than it should. If you think of the budget like a pie, their slice is way too big.

In Minneapolis for instance, the yearly budget for the police force is $189 million. The City leaders are currently trying to cut $200 million from the city’s overall budget. All the Defund The Police movement is asking is, that the Police budget is looked at as one of the places that receives budget cuts.

This is not an unreasonable request. Our school system in Idaho gets budget cuts consistently! This year, for instance, our Governer has proposed a $99 million dollar budget cut to the education system. This is a cut of 5%.

If some of the improperly spent dollars from the Police budget (and don’t tell me every dollar is put to good use, we all know the government doesn’t always spend wisely) was given to schools, you’d have a lot of happy community members! What if we looked at cutting the Police budget by 5% instead of our schools?

2. THE FUNDS WOULD GO TO GOOD USE

This is where the movement began to gain traction with me. I am a firm believer in mental health awareness, education, and that when people know better, they do better.

Defund the Police organizers are asking for more money to be allocated to Social Workers, mental health organizations, and housing in the areas most affected by crime. AKA, the areas with the most police presence.

This idea makes sense to me. Don’t continually put a bandaid on a bigger societal issue. Let’s start getting to the root of the crime and trying to educate those that are most at risk.

If for instance, it costs $100 every time an arrest is made but only $50 every time a mental health call is made and assistance is given to a person at risk, then we have “defunded” the police by 50%. (These are simple, made-up figures to illustrate my point.)

3. IT CALLS FOR A NEW SYSTEM

What Defund the Police is really looking for is systematic change. There are several proposals already set forth, some of them calling for an end to no-knock warrants. Some of them asking to end military-style raids.

If you’re in your mid-thirties like me you likely used to watch the show COPS on tv. And, if you’re like me you often saw the fear and trepidation in the innocent children that looked on as the Cops stormed their home. A no-knock entry can be used if there is suspicion of narcotics that could be easily or quickly destroyed.

Imagine being a 7-year-old child that is trying to sleep in their home, and then imagine being woken to that home being raided by police.

There has to be a better way to approach a narcotics call that doesn’t involve traumatizing at-risk children. These are some of the changes that this bill is trying to implement.

The proposal that really struck me was adding mental health crisis workers to response calls. This way, when the police are called to the scene, a trained crisis worker accompanies them. Then, as a team (with a trained mental health professional), the police will work with those involved in the crime to deescalate the situation and educate those involved.

This makes so much sense to me in regards to communities where crime is part of the culture starting at a young age. If we can educate and nurture young kids who are beginning to show up in the system, we can give them a chance at a better future and permanent change.

Some cities are already implementing system changes within their Police Forces. In Dallas, Texas for instance, if you call 911 the operator will ask you if you need police, ambulance, or mental health services.

So many crimes are the direct result of mental health issues. Why are we spending the dollars to arrest and incarcerate people when in reality they may need medication and therapy?

Why are we not spending dollars to educate and mentor young at-risk children? Giving them the social workers and counselors that they need at school instead of funding a full-time Police Officer on campus? When a Middle School-age child is being arrested, our system has already failed.

Dollars spent on mental health and social work are always well spent in my book. If Defunding the Police means FUNDING mental health in schools. I would completely support it.

Now, look! With a little bit of education and five minutes of reading you probably already feel better. Defunding the Police is not as scary as it sounds, and may even feel like something you could get behind. That just goes to show that you should research topics before forming your opinion. Which, may seem like common sense but is unfortunately not that common right now.

Since you now have a better grasp of what Defund the Police means, you’re probably wondering what you should do next.

1. Share what you know with others! Instead of sharing mindless memes on the internet, share real content that educates the people you love

2. Research your city’s Police Force budget

3. See if a new proposal is in place and read it!

4. Sign petitions that support what you believe in

There are so many of us that are uneducated about what is happening with Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police. Moving past our racism and prejudices must start with educating ourselves and aligning our actions with our core values.

If mental health assistance and government budget reform are things that make sense to you, then Defund the Police may be something you could support.

Do the work. Educate yourself. Be brave enough to share the truth with others. Express your beliefs, even if they differ from those around you.

This is the only way we can change the system that has failed so many thus far.

Lover of writing, babies and good coffee.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store