By Eli Chazin
Following the death of George Floyd in late May of 2020, caused by a Minneapolis police officer, America woke up to an outraged populace that sparked protests nationwide. Social media exploded with black squares that captioned #BLM, Black Lives Matter, a direct correlation to the pro-black activist organization fighting against racism, racial inequities, and police brutality. The term “Defund the Police” took the internet and streets by storm. The virality of the notorious phrase brought forth the topic of police reform and their funding expenses.
According to the US Census Bureau Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances, state and local governments spent a total of $123 billion on police, $82 billion on corrections, and $50 billion on courts in 2019. Although that may seem astronomical, the total they spend on all three only makes up for less than eight percent of the total state and local government expenditures. Over 97% of the estimated $255 billion went towards salaries and benefits.
While there are multiple interpretations of the term ‘defund the police’, the basic definition is to move funds away from the police and put them into other means of community safety and protection, such as on-site mental health specialists or social workers. Some activists want local and state governments to reevaluate, not completely diminish, their spending habits on police departments, while others want to abolish the police altogether. Some argue that we will never get past the police’s racist and problematic history, while others are optimistic at confronting and reforming the law enforcement system.
Should police departments be defunded? Are any police reform efforts helpful? Would abolishing police departments ultimately resolve police brutality for communities of color? Or would it lead to greater violence in our cities?