In response to the coldblooded murder of George Floyd by 4 police officers in Minneapolis, MN there is a large call to Defund the Police and people are freaking out about this because they do NOT understand what this movement is about, so let’s try to figure this out so that you know what it is and what it isn’t.
Seriously, quit freaking out already!!
To be fair, the phrasing does not help. =( =)
Let’s go through it so we all are on the same page:
What Does It Actually Mean?
Police departments tend to expand and become this bloated paramilitary group which does nothing to solve the actual problem of crime, but only ever makes societal problems worse. Police departments over-extend themselves by trying to be the clearing house to solve ALL societal problems and therefore, using that as justification, tends to vacuum up way to much public funding at the expense of others which in turn exacerbates the problems in a huge negative feedback loop.
As a byproduct of trying to solve ALL of the problems local law enforcement do their universal problem solving job very, very poorly because they are not properly trained to do everything. There are reasons why there are jobs in specific fields which require years of specialized training, so we should allow these specialists to do their job, and police to do theirs. And the public funding should reflect that too.
What It Does NOT Mean
‘Defund the Police’ DOES NOT mean:
- completely eliminate all funding for police
- completely disbanding the police
This is not to say that some people don’t want to end police completely, but the larger movement is not necessarily looking for that.
What It Does Mean
With the Defund the Police movement we are looking to target the root causes of crime (inequality and suffering) and not just wasting money paying for more band-aids (police) while people continue to needlessly suffer. Law Enforcement does not actually solve problems. They just deal with something after it has become a problem. Crime is a symptom of a larger problem and is not the problem in-and-of-itself. Until we understand that nothing will get better.
‘Defund the Police’ means:
- police WILL be funded
- police will NOT be over-funded
- redistribute the city budget so that social and public services get a fair share
‘Defund the Police’ emphasizes:
- reassessing our societal values
- solving root problems for crime
- investing in our communities and people
- funding our:
- mental health
- human services
‘Defund the Police’ because:
- police should focus on actual crimes and violent criminals
- police should NOT be responsible for everything because they are NOT:
- mental health counselors
- social workers
- medical professionals
- housing specialist
- healthcare workers
- dog catchers
- and everything else
Why does it mean all of this? Because there is indirect correlation between funding social services and inequality reduction with law enforcement spending. If we spend more in law enforcement then we invest less in local services and in the organizations and departments in which the police do NOT have extensive training in, then crime goes up. It is an autocatalytic process that feeds itself into misery and suffering, and this is the process that we wish to break.
We are actually looking to invest money in more efficient and effective ways that actually prevents crime and suffering, and not just policing it after it has exploded into a the problem after having spent our way into the problem to begin with. We are looking to allow the experts to handle their respective fields such as mental health workers concentrating on that, etc – while allowing the police to concentrate on what they are trained for – actual crimes and violent criminals. If most societal problems get so bad to where the police have to get involved then we have already beyond failed.
If most societal problems get so bad to where the police have to get involved then we have already beyond failed.James O’Neill 2020
Learn About Inequality
If you really want to understand why this movement and concept is so powerful and important then you will want to read the following:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and the Biopsychosocial model in Psychology (BPS)
You will want to read my post on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and the Biopsychosocial model in Psychology (BPS) which goes through on a basic level how environmental factors such as poverty, homelessness, abuse, joblessness, etc… leads to so many of our societal ills and why.
<insert link to read: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and the Biopsychosocial model in Psychology (BPS)>
3 Books which are Required Reading
Then you will want to read ALL of the first 2 books of my required reading. Now is a great time to read them:
- The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger
- The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being
These amazing books talk about how if you give them the level of inequality in a city, state, or nation, etc… they can predict such things as:
- teenage pregnancy
- rates of incarceration
- depression and suicides
- average lifespans
- social trust
- and so much, much more
… and then they explain why this is true in the second book. They also state that inequality directly causes these problems.
Then you will want to read up to Chapter 4 of this required reading book:
… which explains, with a tremendous amount of data, why inequality is a public health crisis.
- What 100 Years of History Tells Us About Racism in Policing (ACLU, Dec 2020)
- The Kerner Commission Report (Feb 1968) – This is the report, which is still very relevant today, was generated by the commission created under President Lyndon B. Johnson to determine how and why the race riots of 1967 happened (police brutality) and how to keep them from happening again.
- Transforming the World Conversations (Poverty) Notes and Links (12 Oct 2018) – These are a collection of links I collected for a talk I facilitated on poverty.
Inequality is a Public Health Crisis
Create a Positive Social Spending Feedback Loop
The idea is to fund social programs such as housing, food, work, minimum wage, education, healthcare, mental healthcare, etc… which reduces inequality and suffering. If we increase funding there then it will result in significant reductions in crime and therefore greatly reduce the need for local law enforcement. The more money you spend on the people to reduce inequality then the less you have to spend on policing. It is as simple as that.
What you will find is that reducing inequality is the most powerful thing we can do to reduce crime, as well as to increase social trust and general societal peace, which in turn reduces the need for law enforcement. In countries with lower levels of inequality such as the Nordic countries there is lower crime, violence, and poverty, as well as a better quality police force.
There are a metric butt-load of statistics that support this which I do NOT have time to look up for every facet of all societal problems.
Why Can’t We Do That?
Here are some not-so good pre-CoVID19 statistics for you to start with:
- It is 3 times cheaper to give people housing than it is to police it or to deal with the health, and other devastating problems that stem from it.
- For every homeless person there are at least 6 empty housing units just sitting there, half of which are investment properties.
- The childhood poverty rate is 22% which was the second highest in the developed world
- The US has a poverty rate of 14%
- The US throws away 40% of its food supply every year.
- We have the highest level of inequality in the developed world.
- Federal Minimum Wage has been $7.25 since 2009 (a decade ago).
- The average Congressional wage is $70 an hour.
- Some CEO’s are getting paid $45,000 an hour.
All of these are going to be higher due to the CoVID19 pandemic with an increase of almost 20% unemployment and many stores and businesses are closing.
The Nordic countries have some of the lowest levels of inequality in the world. One has the lowest level of poverty in the world (3%) and has committed to ending poverty and homelessness. All of them are much smaller countries than we are. If they can do it, then why the hell can’t we?
Let us also take into account the during the last few months of this CoVID19 pandemic Congress just passed over 12 trillion dollars in funding which came out of nowhere, and Congress can do this again. Most of that money went to the 1%. That $12 trillion could have paid for universal healthcare and universal education, UBI, accurate CoVID testing, and so much more.
We can too if we want to because we are the richest country in the world with 20% of global wealth. It is not that we don’t have the money available to solve our problems, it is that the government and corporations continuously make the conscious choice to NOT to solve these problems. Can you guess why that is?
Just take a listen to quote from Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons:
Mom, I know your intentions are good but aren’t the police the protective force that maintains the status quo for the wealthy elite? Don’t you think we ought to attack the roots of social problems instead of jamming people into overcrowded prisons?Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)
A Nation Beyond Law Enforcement?
Would it be possible to someday have a world beyond law enforcement? Potentially, but not in a world based on monetary systems, but that is a whole different conversation for a different day. Can we get close? Yes, we most definitely can, and the Nordic countries show us that beginning and potential:
- The Norden – Police (YouTube) – Police captain Peter Whittingham from LAPD visits Finland, Sweden and Norway. How are suspects treated? What equipment do Nordic police officers carry, and how are they allowed to use it? What role does the police have in the Nordics?
- Dutch prisons are closing because the country is so safe (Independent, May 2017)
- How Norway turns criminals into good neighbours (BBC, July 2019)
- Norway’s police only fired two bullets last year… and no one was killed (Independent, July 2015)
What Might a Set of Policies Look Like that Might Embody the Ideals of the Defund the Police Movement?
The Defund the Police movement really encapsulates my policies in a great way. All of my policies concentrate on how to reduce inequality and, by extension, to reduce crime, poverty, and suffering, but here are the most directly applicable policies if you want to take a deep dive:
Reducing inequality will be more powerful to reduce crime, increase the quality of our ALL our lives, and to increase the quality of law enforcement globally than anything found in my Law Enforcement and Guns policy. All law enforcement polices are really dealing with the greater symptoms of inequality such as systemic and structural racism, poverty, crime – the complete failure of society in taking care of itself.
Frankly, as an extension of this issue, we also need drastic reform the our military and foreign policy which tends to heavily infect our domestic law enforcement and racists policies too – US Machine for War and Terrorism.
We can do better.
We have the knowledge.
We have the money.
We have the resources.
We just need to have the will to demand it.
- As Uprising Spreads Across US, Scholars Argue Economic Transformation and Solidarity Key to Achieving Racial Justice (Common Dreams, June 2020)
- How Do We Change America? (The New Yorker, June 2020) – this is a long one
- Research on Police Brutality and the Current Uprisings (Seattle Central College)
- There’s No Way Around It: Spending on Police in the US Is out of Control (Jacobin, Jun 2020)
- Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (YouTube)
Evolving Police Departments
- No More Money for the Police (New York Times, June 2020)
- ‘Guardians Not Warriors’: How Crime Fell When New Jersey City Dismantled Police Dept. (CBS Minnesota, June 2020)
- Minneapolis City Council members intend to dismantle police department (Daily News, June 2020)
- Minneapolis Organizers Are Already Building the Tools for Safety Without Police (Truthout, June 2020)
Other Posts Of Interest
- The Significant Issue and Privilege with the ‘All Lives Matter Movement’ (Free Xenon)
- If you don’t stand for the special song, the magical sky-cloth won’t freedom! (Free Xenon)
- Open Letter to Conservatives Who Think Progressives Should Just GTFO If They do Not Like It (Free Xenon)
- Themes, Messages, and Symbolism from the Movie “Joker” (Free Xenon)