Last year was a year defined by abolition movements. As a result of several killings by police officers that rightly garnered national outrage in 2020, activists have fought hard to now bring police abolition to the forefront of the American psyche.
In particular, #BlackLivesMatter and abolition activists have been strongly critiquing the inflated police budgets in metropolitan cities within the United States of America that disproportionately outweigh the budgets of other city departments; namely, city departments that could provide citizens with better economic opportunity. Ultimately, major cities in the US receive up to billions of dollars worth of funding at the expense of American taxpayers.
As a result, police abolitionists have been demanding politicians to “defund the police” — a now controversial statement and call to action that is becoming increasingly misunderstood by the American populace. Even months after several police killings made national or global attention, the popularity of defunding police authorities among the American people is low. According to an ABC/Ipsos poll, only 39% of Americans support defunding the police, while 60% do not.
This is because many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy or the immediate disappearance of police officers. Rather, defunding the police is the first step towards police abolition which seeks to create a new system (over time), free of imperialism and inequity, that is more effective and beneficial for all.
There was a police abolition campaign created last year, during the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter protests last summer, called “8 to abolition“— a multi-stepped plan to defund police authorities, encourage decarceration, and accessible housing, and decriminalize Black, Brown, and poor communities.
The 8 to abolition plan provides 8 steps to abolish the police, the first being a call to defund the policing system. Defunding the police, among many other things, entails significantly cutting the disproportionate amount of funds police departments receive from cities and reallocating those funds to under-funded aspects of the community; specifically, city departments that aid in maintaining the well-being of community residents like healthcare, education, housing, employment, and arts.
Many Americans still falsely believe defunding the police would result in societal anarchy.
In truth, upon deeper examination, defunding the police makes more economic sense than keeping the current policing system and would actually benefit most taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Notably, police budgets are expensive and take up a large part of city budgets. “Police budgets remain high in 2020, ranging from 20 to 45% of discretionary funding in major metropolitan areas,” Niall McCarthy explains in an article for Statista.
For example, the city I live in, San Antonio, Texas, spent 500 million dollars on policing in 2020. Other cities like Chicago (where the police departments are even more corrupt) spent much more on their police budgets. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) received 2 billion dollars from their city in 2020. Similarly, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had a 2020 budget of 1.7 billion, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) had a budget of a whopping 5.6 billion.
In addition, states across the US spend millions of taxpayer dollars on police misconduct lawsuits.
A Rolling Stones article details the history of CPD’s history of corruption and violence. Regarding money the city of Chicago spent on police misconduct and brutality suits over the last decade, Paul Solotaroff states that “between 2010 and 2017, [Chicago] issued more than $700 million in police brutality bonds.” Correspondingly, in 2017, the NYPD spent $302 million on police misconduct lawsuits.
Consequently, these aspects of police spending and city corruption tend to fly under the radar due to confidentiality agreements and attorney-client privilege. In turn, taxpayers are essentially paying their cities at least millions of dollars for ineffective, corrupt, or downright abusive policing. So much government money is wasted on police departments across America for no valid reasons except to protect officers from legal accountability as well as to allow officers the resources to militarize against the communities they vow to “protect.”
Defunding the police could more effectively benefit taxpayers by reallocating city budgets into new avenues that could create jobs, could increase pay for government or state workers, and put government money back into the community. Sean Collins affirms this sentiment in his article for Vox stating, “Defunding police departments successfully would create a virtuous cycle, in which communities reap social and political benefits that translate into economic benefits for cities, states, and the communities themselves.”
Between 2010 and 2017, Chicago issued more than $700 million in ‘police brutality bonds’.
Defunding the police is not only an attainable and reasonable call to action, but it’s necessary. Defunding the police would ultimately put government money where it’s most effective — invested in American citizens; more specifically, invested in the working-class communities who are the foundation of America’s economy. Thankfully, cities like Minneapolis (the city where George Floyd was murdered), Baltimore, and Austin along with Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago have defunded their police departments for the following fiscal year. These cities are instead using the reallocated money to invest in social programs, homelessness, Black and Brown communities, and more.
These are the necessary and logical steps to be taken to utilize taxpayer money to maximize financial benefits for, well, taxpayers. This money would get reinvested back into cities and states over time, creating a virtuous cycle of efficient and effective economics.
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