The new talking point coming from George Floyd protestors is that they want to see cities "defund the police." In fact, Denver Public Schools is set to vote on removing all Denver Police Department officers from its campuses, a move officials say will end the "school to prison pipeline."
Conservatives have questioned the movement. After all, "defund the police" implies abolishing law enforcement agencies all together.
John Legend took to Twitter to say that the call is to pull some funding from police departments and reallocate the funds to other necessary resources, like "social work, health care, conflict resolution, [and] drug treatment."
A Black Mother Discusses Defunding the Police https://t.co/myJRLSWYgQ— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
I know this word "defund" has caused some controversy, even from some who are inclined to agree with a lot of the underlying arguments. Some hear that word and envision The Purge, some dystopian descent into anarchy— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
Some intentionally want to cast the argument in extremes like that so they can score political points. But I ask that those of you who are reasonable and actually care about making this country healthy and safe for all people engage with the thoughtful arguments in this piece— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
Legend played on Nancy Pelosi's "show me your budget, show me your values line," saying that local budgets are "moral documents" that point to what an area's priorities are.
Police funding takes up a huge portion of our local budgets. Budgets are moral documents which spell out in black and white what our priorities are. We have finite amounts of money to spend and right now we spend far too much on policing— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
And that choice comes at a cost. We defund housing support, health care, education and child care, the arts, drug treatment, community centers, all sorts of services that would actually reduce the problems that we ask the police to surveil and contain— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
Whenever there are budget cuts, those "softer" services are on the chopping block first. And, since we know we're not solving the underlying problems, we figure we better keep a huge police force to contain them. Let's resolve to do differently. Let's imagine a healthier world— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
This doesn't mean there will be no police; it means there should be significantly fewer police and more professionals of other types with expertise in their fields, whether it's social work, health care, conflict resolution, drug treatment, etc— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
He said the word "defund" is used because it pulls funding away from police and reallocates it.
"defund" is the word because it says we're taking away some funding from one budget item and moving it to higher priorities. "reform" or "retrain" does not at all suggest the same thing. We've been supposedly doing the latter for decades— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
Legend also used the opportunity to slam Democrats for assuming grassroots movements should work at crafting messages that align with the party's vision.
It's not the job of grass roots activists on the left to craft political messaging for mainstream democratic candidates. I'm almost 100% sure Biden won't be tweeting #DefundThePolice. It's the job of activists to push these politicians toward meaningful change.— John Legend (@johnlegend) June 7, 2020
Call it what you will, but this is a step in the wrong direction. Los Angeles Police Department is a prime example. There are 9,000 police officers for a city that has almost four million people. That is one police officer for every 433 residents. Taking away funding and officers expands that ratio, making law enforcement officers even more unreliable for the law-abiding.
Not only that but these activists make an assumption. If funding is cut from local police departments, who is to say that the actual officer positions will be cut? Isn't it more likely that administrative positions will be cut first? Even if activists are successful in getting actual officers off the street, how many are we talking? One percent? Five percent? No one approach can be taken to every single community. Some areas are more stretched than people realize. And what about sheriff's departments that service a massive area of smaller communities that don't have their own police departments?
There are so many logistics people clearly haven't thought through. Instead of working to get rid of cops or lower the number of them that are on the streets, we should look at bolstering some of the other programs that could make an actual difference in people's lives, like drug treatment programs and facilities and school counselors. It doesn't have to be one or the other.