One of the rallying cries of the millions of citizens who have taken to the streets in protest of police brutality and systemic racism has been to “Defund the Police,” a simple appeal to cut the wildly overinflated budgets of America’s police forces.
Crime has steadily dropped for decades while police budgets continue to skyrocket. Tax dollars keep pouring into police departments for the purchase of military equipment, body armor, and a wide array of deadly weaponry that calls into question the purpose of the police department entirely. As the police become more and more militarized, they have begun to behave more and more like an occupying army — and more and more of the budget goes to paying huge settlements to the families of the people they brutalize.
The preposterous amount of our taxpayer dollars that we funnel into the police departments at the expense of other public services was put into sharp perspective this year as doctors and nurses battling COVID-19 were forced to garb themselves in trashbags and handkerchiefs while the police marched out to viciously suppress protests wearing the finest armor money can buy.
Just look at the budget breakdown for a typical U.S. city:
Repost: Memphis’ $282.1M police budget dwarfs all other service area budgets from $0 to education to $35.8M for Parks. Time is up for upside down budgets that disinvest in black neighborhoods while funding tough on crime policing. /1 pic.twitter.com/z67vFKO2n6
— Tami Sawyer (@tamisawyer) June 8, 2020
Any rational person can look at this and come to the conclusion that we spend an outrageous amount of money on policing.
Right-wingers have inevitably seized on this slogan to make bad-faith arguments about how Democrats are weak on crime and want to allow criminals to steal your collection of vintage I Love Lucy commemorative plates. These arguments are the same ones that the right has been making for years on end now and are easily dismissable with just some simple common sense explanations.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), California’s former Attorney General and a potential Joe Biden vice-presidential candidate, showed us all how to shut down right-wing complaints about calls to cut police funding this afternoon during a verbal sparring match with John McCain’s insufferable daughter, Meghan McCain.
Harris joined the ladies of the View to discuss the recent protests and quickly found herself challenged by McCain, who demanded to know if she supported defunding the police.
“Many activists right now are calling for a defunding of the police. I want to know from you, do you support defunding and removing the police from American communities, and if not, why do you think there is such a hard time being differentiated right now between defunding and reforming police departments?” asked McCain, who clearly thought she had nailed her with a Gotcha! question.
Harris was unphased and easily schooled McMeghan on what the self-explanatory phrase really means in practice:
“So Meghan, I think that a big part of this conversation really is about reimagining how we do public safety in America. We have confused the idea that to achieve safety, you put more cops on the street instead of understanding to achieve safe and healthy communities, you put more resources into the public education system of those communities, into affordable housing, into homeownership, into access to capital for small businesses, access to health care regardless of how much money people have. That’s how you achieve safe and healthy communities.”
Noting that in many cities almost one-third, many times as much as half, of city budgets go to policing, Senator Harris asked “what about the money going to social services? What about the money going to helping people with job training? What about helping with mental health issues that communities are being plagued with, for which we’re putting no resources?”
McCain said that she heard Harris “loud and clear” and immediately disproved that by demanding to know whether or not Harris was in favor of “defunding” the police: “Well, I’m not for anything remotely for that…I assume, and again, this is something that is new to me, I assume it’s removing police,” said McCain, despite the fact that “defund” has a distinct meaning that does not involve “removing.”
Defunding the police doesn't mean abolishing the police. It means taking some of their budget and moving it in other areas that need it, from education to training, and mental health services. #TheView pic.twitter.com/kUkxUy9Qcm
— Jerry Avenaim (@avenaim) June 8, 2020
McCain’s fellow host Sunny Hostin jumped in by explaining the concept in very simple terms to McCain.
“Just to add to the conversation, defunding the police doesn’t mean abolishing the police. It means taking some of those funds that are typically one-third of the budget of a city and giving some of those funds to services like education and mental health resources.”
None of that should be controversial at all. Increasing police budgets hasn’t resulted in any substantial reduction in crime. It’s far past time we stopped investing our money in the instruments of state violence and instead invested them in our people and our communities.
Meghan McCain was born a millionaire and is married to a white nationalist so it’s hard for her to get that idea through her head. But for the rest of us normal folks who have to work for a living and whose husbands don’t run a white nationalist propaganda rag, it’s something pretty much everybody can agree on.
Take a look at the budget for my hometown, Dearborn, MI. It is a city of under 100K. 43% of the budge goes to the Dearborn Police Department. The DPD has had issues with racism. Property tax rates in Dearborn are through the roof – many are leaving town because of this…. pic.twitter.com/ehlicLAYhE
— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) June 8, 2020
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.