Defunding the Police Is Another Way to Say, "Invest in Community Growth"

As the Black Lives Matter movement moves forth, individuals have demanded police departments around the United States be defunded. This may sound like a far-fetched idea and Genesis wants to start a conversation around the topic. Defunding the police moves away from policing of citizens, especially Black and Black Indigenous Persons of Color (BIPOC), towards community reinvestment.

The United States police system is an inherently racist and corrupt system. In the 1860s, the local law enforcement were patrol officers who were privately hired to capture enslaved people to return them to their enslaver. The police system began as a for-profit, privately funded system where police forces were paid to terrorize certain racial groups, political parties, immigrants, low-income individuals, etc. (How the U.S. Got Its Police Force). In the 1930s there was a move towards professionalizing the police force to move away from such an image so the “good cop” stems from this publicity. The United States police force has a long-standing history of targeting citizens and escalating tensions within communities and the United States at large.

Looking at present day facts, police officers have killed 576 people in 2020 reported June 26th 2020 (Mapping Police Violence). In a 2017 Police Violence Report, officers spent 7x more time training to shoot a firearm than training to de-escalate situations. This means that police departments are prioritizing the employment of a firearm to address situations and citizens rather than non-violent forms of de-escalation.

Looking at the graph to the right, the crime rate clearly does not matter.We must look towards defunding the police because police forces escalate situations and do not actually solve root problems leading to crimes such as drug addiction, homelessness, poverty, mental health, education, etc. Instead, we should invest in services that address healing and focus on community growth.

To get an idea of what police departments use their budgets for, we will be examining the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The Oakland City Budget allocates almost fifty percent of its budget to OPD (Anti-Police Terror Project). The OPD budget has increased 200% over the past few decades, yet police staffing has not increased so this means OPD officers have become more expensive. The OPD budget has had a greater increase in their budget than the entire city of Oakland. Looking at the average salaries of all other Oakland City employees, OPD officers make up 15% of the city’s workforce, yet take up “32% of base salaries, 46% of overtime pay, 54% of ‘other pay’, and 35% of employee benefits” (Defund OPD). For OPD officers, 50% of their spending comes from overtime pay and the unchecked spending of “other pay”.

The 2020-2021 proposed budget for OPD continues to prioritize policing over community reinvestment with OPD receiving $330 million. Here is a list of services whose combined budgets make up for the OPD budget:

Defunding the police should be accepted in cities across the United States because the police system is broken and other resources better serve communities. City budgets, including Oakland’s, have been defunding other public services for years such as: education, healthcare, transportation, and parks and recreation. Instead of defunding these essential services that promote health and well-being of individuals and communities, we should defund the department that has a negative and violent presence in communities. Defunding the police is a form of acknowledging a broken system that does not serve to protect or uplift communities and the United States. Defunding the police makes way for a better system that can better serve communities and individuals of the United States. Defunding the police is just another way to say, “The United States wants to invest in resources that heal and support community growth rather than focusing on terrorizing and deterring communities.”

Genesis supports defunding the police to focus on healing Black and BIPOC communities. We are firm believers in enacting policies and systems that serve its people and look towards reform if policies and systems do not enable communities. We are the people and we will enact change.

Sources:

Defund OPD: https://www.defundopd.org/info-sheets

Mapping Police Violence: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

How the U.S. Got Its Police Force: https://time.com/4779112/police-history-origins/#:~:text=The%20first%20publicly%20funded%2C%20organized,created%20in%20Boston%20in%201838.&text=In%20general%2C%20throughout%20the%2019th,maintaining%20%E2%80%94%20depended%20whom%20was%20asked.

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