Expanded Glossary

Defund the Police

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A DEFINITION:
defund the police: A call to redirect funding away from police departments and into community resources, systems and structures that directly support Black communities and other communities most impacted by police violence and societal injustice/inequity. This movement encompasses a range of opinions by activists and advocates regarding how and to what extent law enforcement agencies should be defunded, and to which community resources funding should be allocated.

CONTEXT & HISTORY:
Activists who advocate to defund the police demand that instead of putting more money into policing in order to reform it, governments should direct that money away from the police and into other resources, like education, health care, and housing in marginalized communities. This concept does not call for immediately eliminating police, and it does not mean that there will be no one responding to calls for help. Instead, activists want resources that currently go toward policing to instead be used to address specific community needs and prevent the root causes of crime, thereby eliminating the need for police. (A Glossary Of Anti-Racism Terms All Activists & Allies Should Know by Madhuri Sathish)

The current demands for defunding the police are rooted in a long history of visioning and organizing toward abolition of prisons, jails and policing in the United States. Led by Black abolition feminists such as Mariame Kaba, Angela Davis, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the movement for abolition offers a political vision and a framework for ending the prison industrial complex and “creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.” It asks us to imagine a world where policing is obsolete, where no one is kept behind bars, and where all people have what they need to thrive. 
[The] call to defund the police is a call to decrease police budgets, size, scope, and power while investing into alternative community safety models and wellbeing services (anti-homelessness, healthcare, education, drug rehabilitation, affordable housing, etc.), with the ultimate goal of divesting entirely from our modern policing system. The dual focus of the demand is crucial: this is not solely about slashing police budgets, but also about investing in resources and creating separate, new models of safety responsive to specific communities’ needs. (Defunding the Police: Brief Overview of History, Models, and the Demands of the Movement)

#DefundPolice is a demand that has gained popularity in response to recent police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. It is rooted in the failure of decades of commissions, investigations, police reforms, and oversight to prevent their deaths.
#DefundPolice is a demand to cut funding and resources from police departments and other law enforcement and invest in things that actually make our communities safer: quality, affordable, and accessible housing, universal quality health care, including community-based mental health services, income support to stay safe during the pandemic, safe living wage employment, education, and youth programming. It is rooted in a larger Invest/Divest framework articulated in the Movement for Black Lives’ Vision for Black Lives. (#DefundPolice Toolkit: Concrete Steps Toward Divestment from Policing & Investment in Community Safety from Interrupting Criminalization)

MEDIA LINKS:
Patrisse Cullors on care, justice, and defunding the police (6-minute listen, with selected transcript)

Angela Davis on defund the police and abolition (4-minute clip, 25-minute video)

Defund Police: An Animated Video from Project NIA (4-minute watch)

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