Calls to “defund the police” filled the streets during the 2020 uprisings against racist police violence and continue today. Racial justice advocates emphasize housing, health care and other supports. known to reduce violence and sufferingCities across the country remain chronically underfunded, but local and state governments continue pumping more than they can. $200 billionEach year, police and jails are stung by huge budgets.
The ideas and policy proposals behind “defund the police” have sparked millions around the world to engage, educate and agitate around these issues. In the national political realm, though, both Republican and Democratic politicians insist on distorting the movement’s message. Ex-President Donald Trump, along with other top Republicans, tried to turn the words into a sledgehammer against Democratic politicians. They had little to do about demonstrations for Black Lives and defunding the police.
Commentators worried the phrase was politically “toxic” and Republicans pounced, conflating anti-racist visions of public safety with vague images of chaos and disruption. Trump even suggested that only he could protect “America’s suburbs” from being overrun with protesters and low-income housing.
However, most Democrats currently in office are strongly pro-police. President Joe Biden sets the tone for his party by repeatedly calling for Congress to finance the hiring 100,000 additional police officers, as well as billions of dollars more spending.
Biden has also been focusing his pro-police message on calling out apparent hypocrisy among “MAGA Republicans” who say they are pro-police yet refuse to condemn the bloody January 6 attack on the Capitol. He also said that Congress had refused to vote for additional funding for police officers in the pandemic relief legislation.
The “answer,” Biden said, is to fund the police, not defund police.
“Look, you’re either on the side of a mob or the side of the police,” Biden said to applause in a speech on Monday. “You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection.”
Biden’s message is clearly designed to appeal to mainstream Democrats and swing voters who are souring on Trump in the wake of January 6 and, now, the investigation into secret national defense documents the former president allegedly absconded with as he left office. Trump’s outrage over the FBI search of his home on August 8 — which he used to generate media coverage and raise donations — was repeated across the right, with conservative commentators and lawmakers bizarrely calling to “defund” or “abolish” the FBI. (Officially, activists on the left have called for defunding of the FBI for far more compelling reasons for a while. Federal law enforcement offices were placed on high alert after death threats. In Ohio, a gunman attacked an FBI office and shot and killed the attacker.
But critics say Biden’s speech and the rhetoric from the right obscures the real issues behind “defund the police,” watering the words down to an empty political Rubicon. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion was not “raided” by federal agents, who had negotiated with Trump’s lawyers over the allegedly stolen government documents for months. BIPOC and working class people are targeted by police when they raid their homes for minor matters like drugs. Both children and adults get hurt. Breonna Taylor, Amir Locke, and both were killed in botched raids by police. The so-called “raid” on Trump’s lavish mansion-resort was a cakewalk in comparison.
“Once you had Marjorie Taylor Greene and the like talking about defunding the FBI, it was clear that things have jumped the shark a little it, the waters are getting muddy,” said Amara Enyia, manager of policy and research for the Movement for Black LivesIn an interview. “There are so many thing that are happening, and I think the issues now are getting conflated, confused.”
In his latest speech on the issue, Biden cherry-picked some racial justice activists’ talking points, saying we “expect police to do everything” — to be psychologists and sociologists all while protecting the public. The “defund the police” movement also makes this point, arguing that police are ill-equipped to respond to complex social and public health problems such as homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness, not to mention the heavily armed teenager in Uvalde, Texas, who was allowed to go on a killing rampage inside an elementary school while dozens of police stood by.
Where Biden and the “defund” movement depart is over the solution: Biden wants more cops and money for them, while “defund” activists are calling for investments in communities that make them safer.
Activists still have problems to address in 2020: Police budgets are increasing while people struggle for quality housing and health care. Chicago’s public schools are set to lose their accreditation. $30 million in state fundingWhile the police department enjoys a significant boostIn funding.
“People are seeing with their own eyes that perhaps that is not the best use of those funds,” Enyia said. “Perhaps we should be addressing the root cause of violence.”
Biden’s Safe America Plan includes $20 billion for “services that address the causes of crime and reduce the burdens on police,” including mental health and addiction services as alternatives to incarceration. Critics claim that people should not be sentenced to jail for their health problems.
The White House fact sheetIt is estimated that at least $1Billion would be used to train and augment the budgets of police officers. This money is to incentivize Congress to implement policing reforms. failedTo pass, but critics claim federal funding mechanisms for criminal legal system are not. outdated and in dire needThere is no repair. Abolitionists claim that the policing reforms will only act as a band-aid on an already broken system that must be destroyed.
Biden could’ve used his bully pulpit to explain why confronting environmental racism or funding public schools and hospitals would make communities safer in the long run. Democrats could have an “open and honest” conversation about how public safety is defined in disadvantaged communities. Instead, Biden continues on the same path that the government has taken for years, one that leads to racism and violence.