In Denver, Defunding the Police Resulted in a Better City

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The city of Denver was already planning to limit the scope of the police before the calls for defunding gained momentum the start of this year. Denver accelerated their plans though, and the results are already so promising that other cities should start copying what Denver has done. Instead of sending out armed forces to help people cope with mental issues, the city is sending out mental health workers. This means that the people who need help are getting it, and the police can do something else.

Since its launch June 1, the STAR van has responded to more than 350 calls, replacing police in matters that don’t threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs. The goal is to connect people who pose no danger with services and resources while freeing up police to respond to other calls. The team, which is not armed, has not called police for backup, Sailon said.

“We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

Though it had been years in the making, the program launched just four days after protests erupted in Denver calling for transformational changes to policing in response to the death of George Floyd.

“It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.

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Defund the Police, Spend Taxes on Better Things

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In my life team I have seen nearly every public service get defunded except the police, meaning people who would otherwise be housed, have mental care, or otherwise not be neglected end up in confrontations with the police. This is not working well for anybody. Yet defunding the police is an idea that people reject.

A website was built this past summer which showcases the absurd amount of money we give to the police throughout North America compared to social services that can actually help people.

The city of Toronto spends just over 25% of taxpayer dollars on funding the police. That’s a cost of $1.13 billion dollars.

This is comparable to the tax dollars spent on public transportation, the library, children services and public health combined.

Toronto is spending just under $3.3 million dollars per day on police services.

Toronto police are present in some—not all—schools in the Toronto Catholic School Board.

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Defund the Police, Fund These Roles Instead

Thankfully, calls to defund the police are being heard throughout North America where police have military equipment. Despite decades of “austerity” which witnessed governments defunding social services and programs that helped the disenfranchised we’re finally seeing the police budgets on the chopping block. Why is this good? Well, the police have been doing a terrible job and other governmental entities can handle what the police do better. Heck, in Toronto the police outright stopped traffic enforcement despite getting $1 billion a year.

It’s high time we defund the police and reallocate that money to better services.

3) Create a mobile crisis response unit

Oftentimes, a police officer’s role bleeds over from mediation into something that resembles social work, usually involving populations like those who are homeless, intoxicated, substance abusers, or suffering from mental illness.

The results can be disastrous. About half of prison inmates were diagnosed with a mental illness. Around a quarter of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve someone with a mental health condition (and those numbers are possibly severe undercounts). A massively disproportionate number of police calls and arrests in cities across the country involve homeless populations. In Portland, Oregon, the city’s homeless population made up 52 percent of the city’s arrests in 2017 even though they comprise less than 3 percent of Portland’s population.

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Protests Work: Minneapolis Police Defunding Begins and More

Democracy happens in the streets.

Every single person who has supported the Black Lives Matter movement, or has shown support for social justice in a direct way, has helped make change happen in America. The conversation about racist police and blatant police brutality is getting more attention now than ever before; subsequently the idea of defunding the police has reached more people.

This week Minneapolis has started the process of defunding their police. It’ll years, but it’s started. Other successes from the past couple of weeks can be found in corporate America with IBM no longer offering general purpose facial recognition or analysis software to track people (they realized it entrenches bias and racism).

The current pressure on government and racists is working in the USA keep it up!

Go out there and protest, support the protesters, and have conversations with your friends! Just remember to be safe, wear a mask, and stay physically part to not spread COVID.

“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” tweeted Council Member Jeremiah Ellison on June 4, pledging to “dramatically rethink” the city’s approach to emergency response. In a TIME op-ed published the next day, Council Member Steve Fletcher cited the MPD’s lengthy track record of misconduct and “decades-long history of violence and discrimination”—all of which are subjects of an ongoing Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation—as compelling justifications for the department’s disbandment. “We can resolve confusion over a $20 grocery transaction without drawing a weapon or pulling out handcuffs,” Fletcher wrote.

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Unsure of what defunding is about? Read on:

Is dismantling different from defunding?

Dismantling implies abolition of the current structure. Defunding refers to shaving the budget.

Behind both is the idea of shifting resources from a paramilitary police force to education and social services with the aim of reducing socioeconomic disparities.

What would replace the police?

The idea generally would be to have a social services-based approach, possibly using the fire department to handle drug overdose calls, health care and social services professionals to tend to mental health matters instead of militaristic, uniformed officers with guns.

But even the council members who want to dismantle the police aren’t yet articulating detailed agreement on a new approach.

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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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