Monday, June 29, 2020

Vox explains what 'defund the police' really means and the history of police militarization

I've posted comedic takes on defunding the police and police militarization, so it's time I share more serious explanations of both topics. Fortunately for my readers and me, Vox uploaded videos on both subjects last week. I begin with the more recent, What "defund the police" really means.

It's not as radical as it sounds.
Among those protesting police brutality in the US, there is a slogan that’s taken hold: “defund the police.” The key idea is a push to move the billions of dollars we spend on police in the US, to social services and other public spending. The disparities between policing budgets and those of other city agencies are massive. And while defunding the police might sound radical, it’s a policy activists have been talking about for decades. For some, it can mean reforms that simply lessen the police role in society, while for others — the slogan is a call to abolish the system and create something new entirely.
These ideas have all converged into the popular “defund the police” slogan, and the renewed energy around the movement is working.
Presented that way, it makes sense. As Ben Franklin wrote nearly 300 years ago about another public safety issue, fire fighting, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If the desired outcome is less crime and more public order, then the reallocation of resources into social services that reduce crime and make people into better citizens is likely a more efficient and effective way of achieving those goals.

If the goal is intimidation and repression, then militarizing the police will work to achieve that instead. On that subject, Vox also produced a video, Why America's police look like soldiers.

Why are the police bringing military assault rifles to protests? And where did they get them?
Across the country, Americans protesting racial injustice and police brutality – the overwhelming majority of them peacefully – have been met by police forces that look more like an army. Officers have shown up to protests with riot gear, armored trucks, and military rifles. This is what America’s police now look like, and it’s the result of a decades-long buildup of military equipment among the country’s police departments. It began as a Reagan-era program to give police departments more resources to fight the War on Drugs, and has escalated ever since. Today, the idea of a militarized police force is baked into how American police see themselves.
I've been concerned about this issue for more than five years, when I wrote A conversation with Kunstler and his readers on militarized police, although I wrote more about explaining why the residents of Boston and its northern suburbs supported the militarized police response and grousing about Kunstler's negative opinions about African-Americans than I did decrying police militarization. This video gives a historical perspective about the topic than John Oliver's did. Of course, that was meant to entertain and so pointed out the ridiculousness of it, while Vox wants to inform and possibly shock its viewers into action. Both have their purposes.

This is it for the police this month. Stay tuned for this year's celebration of International Asteroid Day to end June followed by a celebration of Canada Day to begin July.

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