It’s Time to Defund the Police

Militarization of police forces isn’t just an American problem, it’s a global problem, and it needs to stop. One of the many reasons police are buying tanks and high tech weaponry is because they have money to do so. In Toronto, we give the police $1 billion a year and yet something like half of all murders go unsolved and they literally stopped enforcing some laws a few years ago. In Toronto just a few days ago the police allegedly pushed a woman off of her balcony. Are the people of Toronto getting value from their police? Maybe not. Maybe we should do to the police what has been done to other public services: cut them.

Let’s replace the police with an organization that cares about the people they are supposed to protect.

Police have also become more militarized. The Federal 1033 program, the Department of Justice’s “Cops Office,” and homeland security grants have channeled billions of dollars in military hardware into American police departments to advance their “war on crime” mentality. A whole generation of police officers have been given “warrior” training that teaches them to see every encounter with the public as potentially their last, leading to a hostile attitude towards those policed and the unnecessary killing of people falsely considered a threat, such as the 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed for holding a toy gun in an Ohio park.

The alternative is not more money for police training programs, hardware or oversight. It is to dramatically shrink their function. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face. We must invest in housing, employment and healthcare in ways that directly target the problems of public safety. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we need publicly financed supportive housing; instead of gang units, we need community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people; instead of school police we need more counselors, after-school programs, and restorative justice programs.

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