The movement to defund the police gained unprecedented support last year after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, for which he is now on trial. Now, another police officer in Minneapolis is the subject of an investigation for shooting and killing Daunte Wright, also an unarmed Black man, after pulling him over for driving with an expired license. The officer, Kim Potter, claims she mistook her gun for a taser, and the incident is being labeled an "accidental discharge."
It's clearly long past time to do something after all of these incidents — and that something is defund the police, which many cities have already been working on for years. Many defunding efforts ask for cities and states to restructure their budgets and reinvest in healthcare, employment, education, and housing. It’s also important to remember that defunding is different from reforming, which advocates say has largely been ineffective.
“The demand of defunding law enforcement becomes a central demand in how we actually get real accountability and justice, because it means we are reducing the ability of law enforcement to have resources that harm our communities,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told WBUR last year. “It’s not possible for the entity of law enforcement to be a compassionate, caring governmental agency in Black communities. That’s not the training, that’s not the institution. We have spent the last seven years asking for training, asking for body cameras. The body cameras have done nothing more than show us what’s happened over and over again. The training has done nothing but show us that law enforcement and the culture of law enforcement is incapable of changing.”
If you are interested in joining the movement to defund the police, below are action steps and resources.
The number-one thing you can do is research how much of your city’s budget goes toward police, and lobby your lawmakers to reallocate that spending toward healthcare, education, and housing. There are local efforts underway in several major cities. If you're able to, attend your local city council meetings to be part of the conversation on the budget. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has created a toolkit with resources and information for how to get involved.
Reclaim the Block is a Minneapolis organization that organizes the community and city council members to move dollars away from the police and toward “community-led safety initiatives.” You can sign its petition to defund the police, donate to the organization, download educational resources, and more.
You can learn more about the history of police violence in Minneapolis and donate through MPD150, an effort toward a police-free Minneapolis.
Communities United for Police Reform in New York City works to end discriminatory policing and trains communities to know their rights.
No New Jails NYC attempts to keep the city from constructing new jails, diverting funds toward housing, mental health, ending homelessness, and other initiatives.
This story was originally published on June 5, 2020, and has since been updated.