US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Activists have long been offering to seize funds from the police and put them into public use. Now this idea has found the support of the masses.
This week, the call to “cut back on the police” rallied demonstrators across America, and even some lawmakers began to listen to him.
Activists who have long advocated cutting back on the police see unprecedented support for their ideas – officials first spoke of budget cuts and staff cuts. That’s what we know about this movement and how cities and states react.
How does this “cut back on the police”?
Activists have been calling for years to cut funding for law enforcement – to take funds from the police and prisons and invest them in community service. The basic principle is that priority in government budgets and spending on public safety should be given to housing, the fight against unemployment, health, education and other vital programs, rather than the police. Proponents of this approach believe that this is the best way forward, since attempts to reform the police over the past five years have come to nothing: an example is the brutal murder of George Floyd. Activists put forward a wide variety of demands: some are ready to be satisfied with a modest reduction, while others require the complete abolition of the police in its current form.
How much does America spend on police right now?
According to recent estimates, over the past four decades, law enforcement in the United States has tripled in price – up to 115 billion dollars. Cost is growing steadily, and crime is constantly falling. In most cities, police costs significantly exceed public spending and the work of other departments (for example, $ 1.8 billion is spent on Los Angeles police, more than half of the total city budget). The economic crisis due to the coronavirus epidemic has forced cities and states to drastically reduce spending on education, youth programs, art and culture, parks, libraries, housing and communal services, and much more. But the budgets of the police grew or remained at the same level – until protests erupted.
How did lawmakers react?
Against the backdrop of protest demonstrations, some mayors and other officials almost immediately changed their position. The mayor of Los Angeles promised to cut back to $ 150 million – although he pushed through the city budget just a day ago, where funding is growing by as much as 7%. In New York, a local council member called for a reduction in police funding by a billion.
In Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, San Francisco and other cities, local politicians have supported the reduction of the police budget in one way or another. Minneapolis approached the issue most radically: city council members even discussed the complete disbandment of the acclaimed police department (note perev: George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis). Colleges, public school systems, museums and other institutions also support cutbacks.
How do the proposed cuts fit with activists?
Activists welcome the change of course, but are not happy with the size of the proposed cuts. In Los Angeles, the Black Lives Matter movement (“Black lives are also important”) insists on a “people’s budget” —only 5.7% of it will go to law enforcement agencies instead of 51% according to the mayor’s plan. Proponents of radical measures like Critical Resistance and MPD 150 believe that instead of sparing and selective cuts, cities should drastically reduce the size of police services and eliminate the traditional system in the bud. They suggest starting with “non-police” solutions to the problems of the poor – for example, a hotline of psychological support and free help to drug addicts.
If the police are deprived of money, is it necessary to wait for a surge of violence and crime?
Supporters of the complete abolition argue that the police and the prison – essentially racist and harmful institutions – do not contribute to security. They note that the vast majority of police work has nothing to do with operational work or crime prevention, that the police have a huge list of unsolved murders, and that they cannot prevent rape and domestic violence.
Has it ever been done before?
Although there are no contemporary examples of successful deprivation of funding in the United States, some studies suggest that crime will be reduced if law enforcement is reduced. In 2014 and 2015, New York officers switched to “low speed” in protest against the mayor – suggesting that if they lay down their hands, crime would increase. However, the opposite happened. As soon as the police stopped responding to “broken windows” – that is, petty offenses – crime decreased. Researchers argue that harsh punishments of petty offenses are fraught with social upheaval and can lead to increased crime. If you punish for poverty – for example, high fines for violations of the rules of a traffic violation and non-payment of debts – conditions may be even more favorable for crime.
How do police unions respond?
The powerful police unions of America have long resisted all sorts of reforms and tightened rules, and, as expected, they unfoundedly argue that any budget cuts will aggravate the criminal situation. Robberies and vandalism amid protests, they called evidence of an acute shortage of employees. Supporters of the reduction, on the contrary, the brutal suppression of peaceful demonstrations and aggressive violent measures against protesters considered the best evidence of harm to the police (especially when there is no threat to public safety).
Is there anyone to take an example from?
The American legacy of racism and the epidemic of street skirmishes make it difficult to fully compare the United States with other countries. However, some note that compared with other countries, the United States spends much less on community service and social programs – but at the same time they have an order of magnitude more people in jail. So investment in the police and prisons does not affect public safety. In fact, US police kill more people in a day than many countries in whole years.
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