The coronavirus continues to ravage the nation, abandoned by the vastly inept and heartless Trump regime. Cases in the East continue to wane while cases in Arizona, Florida, Texas and Oregon are seeing a surge. And we are probably two weeks away from a surge resulting from the massive protests across the nation, which will surely help the virus spread.
Protesters continued to gather yesterday in many parts of the country to urge equal justice for our black citizens and an end to police brutality, especially against blacks. The aspect of the protests receiving the majority of the attention yesterday was the call by some protesters to “Defund The Police.” This slogan means many things to many people, but on its face, it’s absurd. The most plain reading of the phrase is to stop funding police, causing the police to cease to exist. And some protesters apparently believe this can happen, and want it to happen. Keep in mind that Republicans endeavored to “Defund Planned Parenthood” not to shrink it but to eliminate it. But if the talking heads and pundits are to be believed, Defund The Police actually means that police forces should have some portion of their funding taken away and used for preventative measures that keep citizens from needing the police. Many localities have, over the years, seen their budgets for mental health, job counseling and training, drug intervention, domestic violence intervention, and homelessness zeroed out while their police budgets mushroomed, making the police the de facto handlers of the mentally ill, managers of the homeless, and crisis intervention for drug addicts and domestic abusers. And this situation is untenable.
Also untenable is the racist culture within many police departments that pushes cops to over-police black neighborhoods and target people by the color of their skin. Some local police departments are so malignant that they can’t be ‘reformed’ and must be dismantled, with an entirely new police apparatus built to take their place. This is apparently what Minneapolis has just voted to do, and others will surely follow.
But yet again, we’ve chosen an absolutely horrible and damaging slogan to represent something potentially good and transformative. Defund The Police may be well-intentioned but it’s misleading and a loser, and the GOP is already beating us over the heads with it, claiming we hate all police and want to live in anarchy! Why do we have such trouble with our own messaging? I wish I had a good answer. But just like “democratic socialist” isn’t really socialist at all, and is actually more precisely “social democrat,” which also has little to do with socialism, Defund The Police is harmfully misleading. It’s not hard to think of better choices, like:
- Restructure The Police
- Reform The Police
- Reconstitute The Police
- Reconstruct The Police
- Shrink The Police
- Reimagine Policing
And I’m sure people will come up with many others.
We have to do a better job of communicating and messaging. Many of the policies and priorities we care about involve complex and nuanced issues, so it’s a challenge, and we are fighting a party that uses Goebbels-caliber disinformation constantly (like “Right To Work” laws that destroy unions and make a living wage impossible). So please don’t adopt the Defund The Police slogan unless you really want to eliminate police. Otherwise, use something else. I’ll probably adopt Restructure The Police, but I’m open to suggestions.
In Albany, police reforms are front-and-center. Yesterday the State Legislature passed a ban on police choke-holds, and today they’re scheduled to vote on eliminating the confidentiality of police disciplinary records. Here’s great coverage from NPR:
Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”