Defund, Demilitarize, Dismantle

In the last year, the issue of police brutality has become a major discussion point in the American media sphere. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others triggered massive protests across the country and the world against racism and police brutality. Any person with a shred of human decency has been appalled by the fascist treatment of Black people in America, as they should. What most of us have been talking about is what to do about this problem, and this is where things get heated.

In response to the violence, many activists have re-popularized the slogan “Defund the Police.” Some have gone even farther, calling for the abolition of police. Hardly any elected officials in either major party expressed support for the idea, but it quickly became used as an attack on Democrats by Republicans, as part of the latter’s attempt to paint anyone with slightly moderate politics as a radical socialist. Many center-right Democrats lost their seats or came close in the 2020 cycle and the Democratic Party leadership and other more conservative Democrats have been quick to place the blame on progressives. Virginia Congressman and former CIA agent Abigail Spanberger, who narrowly won a close reelection campaign in the state’s 7th district, fiercely attacked progressives, has been quoted as saying that “no Democrat should ever use the word socialism again.” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn claimed that the “defund the police [slogan] was killing our party,” and former President Barack Obama said that activists would lose people with the slogan.

On another day, I could go all into how comfortable liberals/moderates regularly tone police the language of radical activists who have to bear the brunt of the injustices that plague our society. But instead, I will propose a possible 3 step solution to the issue of policing in America that should address what too many people don’t seem to get. These are the 3 D’s of Police Abolition.

  1. Defund. We’ve all heard it. It’s the slogan that’s been putting everyone up in arms. Yet those who oppose it lack a fundamental understanding of what defunding the police would look like. Defunding would mean taking money away from the police, but the question is how, much and where? Police forces are one of the largest categories of government spending, with big cities spending somewhere from $150,000,000 to $6,000,0000,000 on the police department every year. In Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, police spending accounts for more than 30% of the city’s general fund expenditure. Meanwhile, education and health services have seen increasing cuts in funding for years. If we invested the money given to police in something that could truly benefit our society, then we could have peace and justice.   
  2. Demilitarize. This is something that some people refuse to acknowledge, while others know to be true: American police are too heavily armed. For many liberals, gun control is a major issue, yet they rarely seem to express opposition to the fact that law enforcement is armed with weapons that they probably don’t even need. In 19 nations across the world, law enforcement does not routinely carry guns. In the UK, only 10% of the police force bears firearms and most of the armed forces are in counterterrorism. Five people died in the UK at the hands of law enforcement in 2020. In Iceland, police carrying of firearms is so rare that there has only been one fatal police shooting since it became an independent republic in 1944. If American police were not so heavily armed, would shootings be such an issue? Then again, police officers in other countries also have more strict vetting and training. In Germany, recruits need at least two and a half years of basic training to become an officer. Meanwhile, in several US states (including North Carolina), it takes more hours to become a barber or plumber than it does to become a police officer. 
  3. Dismantle. This is the final step toward police abolition and one that will inevitably take some time to accomplish. Defunding and demilitarizing are relatively simple steps that can happen if our leaders truly care about protecting black lives. But even if certain reforms are made, this cannot change the inherently racist, fascist nature of American law enforcement. The policing system as we know it today is directly descended from the slave patrols that were used to keep the enslaved Black people who built the country for free in lockstep. The last one year of protests has shown that police know how to use restraint when the protesters are white supremacists carrying military grade weapons to protest basic pandemic restrictions or their candidate losing an election. Add to that, a poll found that 84% of police officers supported Donald Trump in 2016, and that number is likely to have gone up in 2020 due to many police unions backing Trump.

Of course, brunch liberals may not support any of this, because they are too hell-bent on getting back to a world where they wouldn’t need to pretend that they cared about injustices plaguing American society. Hence, they get so triggered by the idea of even defunding the police. But while their feelings may be hurt, Black people continue to lose their lives at the hands of police and vigilantes, even with a Democratic president in power. Therefore, if you can’t call out the system for what it is, then you are complicit in the problem.

By Aadit Nerkar, Contributor