An Explainer on What It Means to Defund the Police, Lizzo Style

Photo: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock.

In a matter of weeks, America witnessed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, along with continued police violence against the peaceful protests that followed. The logical course of action is as simple as Lizzo’s Defund the Police Instagram post. But for those unfamiliar or even wary of the mission, it can seem impossible. Let’s break it down.

Lizzo, 32, is one of many celebrities using their platform to promote a police defunding initiative by Movement For Black Lives. In short, the initiative explains that defunding police departments can be useful for reallocating funds to other local budgets—like funds for public health, housing for the homeless, education, and other social services. As Movement For Black Lives writes in their open letter, “Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, funding for public health decreased every year, crystallized most recently when the Trump administration eliminated the US Pandemic Response Team in 2018, citing ‘costs.'”

They add, “Where could that money go? It could go towards building healthy communities, to the health of our elders and children, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare, to support a vibrant Black future. The possibilities are endless.”

Most importantly, reallocating funds to these sectors can reduce—if not eradicate—the need for police forces entirely. Communities that already live with a surplus of funding and benefits know what it is like to live without the need for policing on a daily basis, as there are local intervention efforts to support those who have or will commit crimes (like shoplifting, carjacking, etc.) in an effort to financially support themselves, and in turn, stay alive. With funding to address the root cause of most crimes, communities would not need violent police intervention in the first place.

As Lizzo explains, “Defund the police sounds radical until you realize we’ve been defunding education for years. Abolish the police does NOT mean Abolish law enforcement. Defund the police means give some of those BILLIONS of tax dollars to healthcare/workers, social services, communities that need funding, education etc. we can reimagine a better country where law enforcement does what it’s supposed to do!”

That said, some activists would disagree with Lizzo’s perspective that abolishing police “does NOT mean Abolish law enforcement.” Instead, they urge organizers to push even beyond ideas of reform, downsizing, or new “kinds” of police forces and consider rehabilitation models that utilize social workers, therapists, etc. to redress notions of criminality in the first place.

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