by Jamala Rogers
Black Lives Matter protesters of all shades have been in the streets since the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops. The
demand to “Defund the Police” is organic and legitimate. It has risen to a national discussion and we must be super clear on what this means to
local communities before the racist power structure decides for us. If we are to have meaningful, lasting reforms, specific demands and proposals
must be put in front of local and state houses now. We need disciplined and strategic organization to ensure change is put in place.
The distractions and okey-dokes are already in play. Corporations like Nike, Target and the NFL gave their employees Juneteenth off as a paid
holiday. This is a payoff when most of them have less than stellar practices related to the hiring, retention and supporting of Black employees. It
wasn’t that long ago that Roger Goodell and the NFL smacked down the righteous concerns of quarterback Colin Kaepernick regarding police
violence against Black men and booted him out of the game (forever?). A sorry from Goodell is empty until he makes substantive changes in his
own racist organization.
Confederate statutes or Aunt Jemina on the pancake box are symbols of white supremacy. Dealing with those symbolic reminders of oppression
are important but they don’t change the real power dynamics in this country. Let’s keep changing the cultural icons but don’t stop there.
While communities are united in the moment around the need for some kind of police reform, let us center ourselves on a few key guiding
principles: we should not support any reforms that consolidate state or corporate power. We should not lend resources or support any policy that
harms Black lives. We should work toward a genuine re-alignment of political and economic power.
The demand from the streets to defund police departments has
resounded across the country because we’ve seen a failed policing
model that eats up much of our city budgets. Police budgets continue to
balloon while social services and programs get cut. It’s time to go deep
on that sacred budget.
The common denominator in the meaning of defunding the police is that
there will be no more increases in police budgets, and that funds diverted
from the untouchable, bloated budgets will be invested in meeting human
needs. BLM activists and allies are demanding police out of schools, the
end to SWAT and chokeholds, the use of mandatory police body
cameras, the end to hyper-surveillance, the ban of so-called nonlethal
weapons such as flash-bangs, rubber bullets, tear gas and bean bag
The divested dollars would be pumped into community mental health
services, housing programs, youth recreation, training and employment,
childcare, parks, and education. Millions of students attend schools
where there are no counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers.
Investment in these areas would better address the challenges our
young people and their families face.
What we don’t need to spend money on is another damn study! Some
would argue that training — of any kind — for police is a waste of tax
dollars. Implicit bias training has not ebbed the contempt of white officers
towards Black and Brown people. Body cams have not been that helpful
in convicting cops, only traumatizing us more as we take in the horrific
images of police murder re-runs.
Many defund advocates are abolitionists interested in decreasing the size
and scope of police departments until they no longer exists as we know
them. Our belief is that given the origin of police in slave patrols, there is
no reforming the institution. Nothing short of abolition will do. Another
world is possible and we’re building it. First stop is the police department.