In the wake of the killing of George Floyd at the hands or knee of Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police Department, demonstrations have been mounted across the United States, and in major cities throughout the world, in protest of police brutality, excessive use of force, and systemic racism and violence toward black people, typified by Floyds senseless, tragic death. In Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, and other Canadian cities, protesters marched in solidarity with the American demonstrators, as well as to protest the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black indigeneous woman who fell from her balcony in late May, whose family is pursuing the claim that her death was caused by Toronto police.
These demonstrations some of the largest and most sustained in recent history are about more than demanding justice for George Floyd, which, as a direct consequence of protest, has already been partly achieved. (All four of the officers involved in his death have been fired and now face criminal charges.) Whats being called for now is comprehensive, fundamental, even revolutionary change. The United States and of course Canada has a problem with racism and criminal justice. The solution isnt reform. Its to defund the police.
This is not a position easily understood. It requires seriously rethinking our assumptions around law and order, community, justice and civic responsibility. Defunding the police represents an effort to confront the problem not by making minor adjustments, but by completely reimagining the role of the institution itself.
An idea once considered radical, defunding the police has suddenly been propelled by this movement into the mainstream. Los Angeles has decided not to move forward with a planned increase in police spending, and in fact will reduce the police budget by upwards of $150 million. In Minneapolis, where the protests began, city council president Lisa Bender says the city intends to dismantle the police department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.
What does defunding the police actually look like? Alex S. Vitale, in his extraordinary book The End of Policing, outlines the necessary changes so clearly and lucidly that the concept starts to look simple. He begins by identifying the most flagrant issues: the militarization of law enforcement, the criminalization of homelessness and most sex work, the you vs them attitude instilled by training academies, the school-to-prison pipeline, the useless and malign War on Drugs.
Police officers in North America are tasked to do too much. Theyre trained to see themselves as warriors and other people as potential threats to be contained or eliminated. They target black and other non-white people at rates that are wildly disproportionate. Theres not enough transparency and next to no accountability.
Reforms remain paramount for the suspension of paid administrative leave for cops under investigation, for new and better training that emphasizes deescalation and community relations. But these reforms, Vitale argues, must be part of a larger vision that questions the basic role of police in society. The larger truth about law enforcement is that these problems are too fundamental to iron out like wrinkles. Theyre part of the fabric of the police. Most of the critical reforms would be ignored, resisted, and overturned, while cops will continue to reproduce their political power by fanning fear of the poor, non-white, disabled, and dispossessed, thereby further centralizing and empowering the institution.
The problem is that most reforms expand the reach of policing. The most recent changes introduced to reduce police brutality and help improve community relations, such as body cameras, civilian review boards and community policing programs have merely amplified the scale of the police and increased police funding, effecting no real change in how cops approach their jobs.
As Vitale points out, more money, more technology, and more power and influence will not reduce the burden or increase the justness of policing. What will is smarter investment and planning: developing robust mental health care and creating low-income housing systems, or creating real avenues out of poverty and social isolation in neighborhoods with high concentrations of crime.
Whenever the idea of defunding the police is raised, crime is always the immediate objection. Without cops, who will protect us? Who will prevent thieves from stealing, violent criminals from running amok, murderers from eluding justice? But defunding or even abolishing the police entirely, doesnt mean that no one should investigate murder. It simply acknowledges that a very, very small percentage of cops are involved in murder cases to begin with, and that the overwhelming majority of cops are involved day to day with situations they are plainly unequipped or ill-suited to deal with.
The alternative proposed is simple. Someone is sleeping on a park bench: instead of a cop, a city employee comes by and offers shelter. Someone is doing drugs in public: instead of a cop, a substance use professional intervenes and determines if they need help. Someone is shouting and behaving erratically in the street: instead of a cop, a social worker trained in dealing with people with mental illness approaches and calms them down, guiding them home or bringing them somewhere for assistance. Earlier this week, an indigenous woman named Chantel Moore in Edmundston, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by police who had come to perform a wellness check at the request of a concerned boyfriend. Does it makes sense for an armed cop to perform a wellness check?
These are not changes anyone expects will be made overnight. They are serious, sweeping changes, and are bound to be controversial, in Canada as much as in the United States. But this year, Toronto City Council approved a budget increase for Toronto Police Services of more than $40 million. Of its $13.5 billion total operating budget, the city spends $1.076 billion on police services. Thats more than the city spends on firefighters, paramedics, libraries, and public housing more than it spends on all of them combined. The point isnt that we ought to flip a switch and watch the entire police just vanish in an instant. Its to drastically cut back, and to reinvest that money into programs and services that will actually do good. Its to defund the police.
Subscribe to our news podcast, 10/3, on Apple Podcasts
- Letter to the editor | We have lost the War on Drugs - TribDem.com - November 29th, 2020
- A live treat from The War on Drugs - Livemint - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs: LIVE DRUGS (Super High Quality) - review - Under the Radar Mag - November 29th, 2020
- The Drugging of the American Mind | Opinion | Northern Express - northernexpress.com - November 29th, 2020
- Five Years Ago, White Families Called For A 'Gentler War On Drugs.' Did We Get One? - TalkingDrugs - November 29th, 2020
- New music roundup: Soft Kill, Tank and the Bangas, The War on Drugs - Columbia Daily Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Hear the first episode of the War on Drugs Super High Quality Podcast - Far Out Magazine - November 29th, 2020
- New Indie Music: The War On Drugs, Fiona Apple, And More - UPROXX - November 29th, 2020
- Ed Forchion Wages His Own War on Drugs: Sues the State of New Jersey Over Bait and Switch Cannabis Regulation Laws - Massachusetts Newswire - November 29th, 2020
- Kip Yost: Some hard things that must be done to reduce homelessness - Salt Lake Tribune - November 29th, 2020
- Will magic mushrooms go the way of cannabis? Legalization efforts are growing - Vallejo Times-Herald - November 29th, 2020
- The War On Drugs, Kings Of Leon, Cardi B among latest Mad Cool 2021 additions - Live4ever Media - Live4ever - November 29th, 2020
- Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok - The New York Times - November 29th, 2020
- The War on Drugs has caused more harm than good - The Maine Wire - August 6th, 2020
- Police in Floyd County have new tool to fight the war on drugs - FOX 5 Atlanta - August 6th, 2020
- The Floret Coalition Is Adapting the Giving Circle Model to Help Address the Damage of the War on Drugs - Willamette Week - August 6th, 2020
- Exposing Rodrigo Duterte's War on the Free Press - Hyperallergic - August 6th, 2020
- Fighting the Yaba Pill: The Death Toll Mounts in Bangladesh's Drug War - DER SPIEGEL - August 6th, 2020
- Guardia Civil execute huge drugs bust in the war on crime in Torrevieja - Euro Weekly News - August 6th, 2020
- Death Penalty Danger in the Philippines - Human Rights Watch - August 6th, 2020
- WE'RE IN THE MONEY, MAYBE | Cap City - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- China Is Waging Cyber-Enabled Economic War on the U.S. How to Fight Back. - Barron's - August 6th, 2020
- Juvenile Records Laws Must Be Reformed to Prevent Ongoing Racism - Juvenile Justice Information Exchange - August 6th, 2020
- How the Pandemic Defeated America - The Atlantic - August 6th, 2020
- The road to riches - Illinois Times - August 6th, 2020
- Dominion, Decriminalization, and Demilitarizing the Police: An Exclusive Q&A With Jennifer McClellan - rvamag.com - August 6th, 2020
- Reparations is a nonstarter in Congress. Not in this Southern city. - The Christian Science Monitor - August 6th, 2020
- Advancing Equity: Women's Crisis Center staff repeats this phrase and means it 'We are still here' - User-generated content - August 6th, 2020
- 7 of the best Steven Soderbergh films to watch right now, from crime dramas to caper comedies - Minneapolis Star Tribune - August 6th, 2020
- The hidden face of the war in Cabo Delgado - defenceWeb - August 6th, 2020
- Opinion Defining defunding the police to help our community - The CT Mirror - August 6th, 2020
- Saratoga Jewish Community Arts to present virtual panel discussion on the film '13th' - The Saratogian - July 21st, 2020
- The US 'war' on drugs - newagebd.net - July 21st, 2020
- As the War on Drugs Relentlessly Grinds On, Overdose Deaths Relentlessly Mount - Cato Institute - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why The US Drug War Can NEVER Be Won - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- 20 charged as part of sheriff's 'War on Drugs' - ABC 36 News - WTVQ - July 21st, 2020
- Activists take to the streets to call for marijuana legalization in N.J. - NJ.com - July 21st, 2020
- Police Murders and the War on Drugs - LA Progressive - July 21st, 2020
- Austin, Texas, Just Voted to End the Drug War - The Nation - July 21st, 2020
- The Genius Of The War On Drugs A Deeper Understanding - Guitar.com - July 21st, 2020
- Legislation Introduced That Would End Mandatory Incarceration for Nonviolent Drug Offenders - The Peoples Vanguard of Davis - July 21st, 2020
- Colombia to kick off congressional year with cocaine decriminalization bill - Colombia Reports - July 21st, 2020
- The Business of Drugs: Why Amaryllis Fox Is The Perfect Host - Screen Rant - July 21st, 2020
- How a miracle drug changed the fight against infection during World War II - The Union Leader - July 21st, 2020
- As Philippines fights coronavirus, some fear involvement of the police - Reuters - July 21st, 2020
- Netflix's The Business Of Drugs Review: Cocaine, Meth, and More | TechQuila - TechQuila - July 21st, 2020
- The People: bridging distance and differences in a pandemic - The Fulcrum - July 21st, 2020
- Covid-19 in Philippines: Police deployed to implement fresh lockdowns - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- Pressure from Manipur CM Biren Singh to drop drugs case: cop to court - The Indian Express - July 21st, 2020
- The Newcastle Herald's Opinion, Thursday, July 16, 2020: What value the 'war on drugs' when substance use is 'normalised' in society? - Newcastle... - July 21st, 2020
- Decades of promised police reforms have failed to alter a culture of abuse and racism - Milwaukee Independent - July 21st, 2020
- Lessons From a Global Reckoning: D.C. Looks to Make 14-Year-Old Social Studies Standards More Inclusive as Cities Nationwide Grapple With Re-Engaging... - July 21st, 2020
- Philippines war on drugs may have killed tens of thousands, says UN - The Guardian - June 6th, 2020
- Trump Reelection Campaign Attacks Biden As 'Architect' Of The War On Drugs - Marijuana Moment - June 6th, 2020
- Dan Adams On The Racist War On Drugs, And Why Equity Licensing Matters - wgbh.org - June 6th, 2020
- The Man Who Started the War on Drugs - OZY - June 6th, 2020
- From Iceland Iceland-Backed UN Report Condemns Filipino Government's War On Drugs - Reykjavk Grapevine - June 6th, 2020
- How American Race Relations Shaped Lives of Current, Former Seahawks - Sports Illustrated - June 6th, 2020
- Gardai start special war on drugs operation in Finglas as 'horrific' day time images surface online - Dublin Live - June 6th, 2020
- Change comes from marching in streets and to the ballot box - Rockford Register Star - June 6th, 2020
- Decades of Americas drug wars led up to the riots of today - RT - June 6th, 2020
- Defund the Police - The Atlantic - June 6th, 2020
- The right is trying to link George Soros and George Floyd protests. Don't let it. - NBC News - June 6th, 2020
- It's a war on the poor why the war on drugs is still sweeping the globe - Morning Star Online - May 29th, 2020
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is NAACP's outrage toward abortion, black-on-black crime? - Anniston Star - May 29th, 2020
- In this documentary, Duterte's drug war is a hunt for the aswang - CNN Philippines - May 29th, 2020
- Colombia to receive US Army unit on June 1 for counter-narcotics support - The City Paper Bogot - May 29th, 2020
- No time to be selling arms to the Philippines | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- The battle of COVID in the 'quiet war' on China | TheHill - The Hill - May 29th, 2020
- Stevenson: We have to find ways to create more equality, more opportunity, more justice - Harvard Law School News - May 29th, 2020
- US declares a vaccine war on the world - Asia Times - May 29th, 2020
- Here's new movies and shows to stream in June on Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and Prime Video - Tulsa World - May 29th, 2020
- Kalen & Aslyn Narrate and Rekindle Their Love on Girlfriend - American Songwriter - May 29th, 2020
- Editorial: On Memorial Day, we recognize our collective debt - Los Angeles Times - May 29th, 2020
- Fighting Addiction and a Pandemic to Keep St. Louis' Unhoused Alive - Riverfront Times - May 29th, 2020
- NMS hires 225 medics in heightened war on Covid-19 - The Star, Kenya - May 29th, 2020
- War on Drugs - Timeline in America, Definition & Facts ... - May 24th, 2020
- A Hidden Origin Story of the CBD Craze - The New York Times - May 24th, 2020
- War Metaphors and the Return to Campus | Confessions of a Community College Dean - Inside Higher Ed - May 24th, 2020
- Police bust over one ton of drugs in SE Iran - Mehr News Agency - English Version - May 24th, 2020