What does defunding the police mean?

When I first heard “defund the police,” I scoffed at it. I thought: how can we live in a world where 911 isn’t accessible to us? My opinion has drastically changed since.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump tweeted that “defunding the police would be good for robbers and rapists.” Many people truly believe that defunding the police means this. However, that is not the truth.

The movement to “defund the police” means a lot of different things to different people. It doesn’t mean immediately removing the police force and allowing for crime to run rampant. It means reducing, with the hope of eventually diminishing, our country’s police reliance.

The movement aims for a better future, where the police are not needed as much. This future may include law enforcement, but not the police and system that are currently terrorizing American citizens.

I understand that restructuring and keeping the current police sounds like a great option in theory. Ideally, the people of our country could coexist with a police force that’s educated on social issues and respects all backgrounds. The problem is that attempts to restructure the current police force have repeatedly failed us for a century.

Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was mercilessly murdered, already claims to have “reformed” their department. The city introduced various reform efforts in 2015, such as trainings on implicit bias and crisis intervention. Clearly, this simple reform didn’t work.

Minneapolis isn’t the only city that has attempted reform its police force. Cities like Baltimore and Cleveland have imposed reforms in their respective areas that have made little to no change in the police brutality rates.

Before I dive in further, it is important to take a look at the history of police officers in the United States. Police officers were invented to repress people of color. The first Southern police forces were created to catch and return runaway slaves. The first Northern polices forces were created to repress the labor strikes. The police were, quite literally, invented to repress marginalized communities.

The brutality against people of color did not end with the abolition of slavery. The National Academy of Sciences of the United States discovered that 1 in 1,000 Black men are murdered by police officers.

As time goes on, police forces continued to perpetuate terror for others. As recently as 2003, the police could attack and infiltrate any queer space under the American sodomy laws.

And the police continue to do so. Just this year, police officers pepper sprayed and beat queer demonstrators with batons at the celebration of the Stonewall Uprising’s 51st anniversary.

This is terrifying. How can we, as Americans, ever expect to come together and live in peace when such a corrupt system continually attacks any marginalized group?

The truth is that the average cop spends most days giving out parking tickets or responding to other non-criminal issues. There’s a common notion that these men and women “save the day,” but the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College points out that on average a police officer makes a single felony arrest a year.

Ninety-five percent of the arrests that police officers make is not for crimes that affect public safety. Many people know that arrests can be made for nonsensical reasons, some of these for just being Black.

Whatever law enforcement body is to exist in our country, it needs to be one with more training than today’s police officers. The duration of training varies based on the location, but it is on average about 13 to 19 weeks. That’s right; your hairdresser has more training than the cops patrolling the street.

The only feasible way to start saving innocent American lives is to start cutting the number of police officers. If the police have less contact with citizens, there is less of a chance for them to act violently against the people.

With less money going into the police force, this money can be redirected to more meaningful causes. Of the $800 million budget in the city of Miami, 32 percent of it goes directly to the police force.

This money is being used to militarize officers, putting weapons in their hands that should not ever be used against civilians. Financing the police with money to purchase weapons that are used in active combat is ridiculous. Imagine what can be done with this money to improve education and healthcare systems.

Lack of education and poverty are two of the major predictors of criminal activity in the United States. One of the only ways to get out of poverty is through education. Introducing extra funding into school systems will help dwindle away at both of these two major issues facing the country.

There is so much that needs to be accomplished in order to fix police brutality. Yes, defunding the police sounds drastic. That’s because it should.

The culture of excusing police brutality off of personal experience with police doesn’t help anyone. I don’t want to hear about your one positive interaction with an officer or your incredible grandpa who was a cop. Your grandpa won’t erase the corruption that exists.

The bad officers are outweighing the positive. The damage being done is hurting more lives than it’s helping. Don’t let the efforts of millions of protestors this summer go to waste. It’s time to defund now.

Jarrod Houseknecht is a junior majoring in communication studies and public advocacy.