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Defund the Police, Invest in Communities

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/06/11/defund-police-invest-communities

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Defund the Police - Defund the Death they bring. Invest in Communities - We must have their Life.

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Reallocate, De-escalate!

(hat tip to @Mr_Peabody)

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This topic begs for a better presentation of numbers. A few numbers are given in the story, but I’d like to see:

  1. Nationwide Cost Curves: Police (and by the way, the civil payouts are small compared to budgets - about 1%), Mental Health, and other Government Services we are thinking of transferring some of police budgets to.

  2. A breakdown of exactly what Camden, NJ did since that seems to be the main example of a big overhaul that I’ve seen.

  3. A proposal for what percentage of defunding for the police arm we are talking about. Saying defunding without a number is really just giving the right another talking point to bludgeon us with - “what, you don’t want any police?”

I’d much rather defund the military than the police (though I agree with both). And by defund the military, I mean take away 75% off the bat. I’m not sure I would cut the police that deeply.


De-fund the police ENTIRELY?   I’d be real careful what I wished for if it were up to me.  As noted yesterday, how about applying a “Three Strikes and You’re Out” policy to police officers instead.

There are at least two major reforms needed to make this work:

  1. Real Accountability with an INDEPENDENTLY ELECTED Community Board reviewing ALL complaints against officers, with presumption of guilt if an officer had turned off or was not wearing his or her body camera.
  2. A National Database to ensure that officers dismissed after three verified incidents of misconduct could not EVER AGAIN be hired in ANY law enforcement capacity anywhere in the U.S. — not even as a private security guard.

Of course this is in addition to Zero Tolerance of serious violations, as noted by others.


In terms of funds, police departments have been swallowing USAmerica whole. This has been going on for decades, as Reagan and all his successors push to drown “guvmint” in the bathtub – except for police & military, of course. LA spends 55% of its budget on police today.

For the iconic bogus “guvmint” shrinkage, look to mental-health care in California. It’s been cut, cut, cut until a good portion of our homeless is chronically mentally ill. Let the police take care of it – that’s how it goes. More funding to police so they can round them up for incarceration – where each prisoner costs the state $85K per year. The largest mental institutions in the country (by far) are all inside prisons. The police and prison-guard unions are happy as clams, some mentally-ill people are off the streets, with only one unconscionable slaying per month, or so, of mentally-ill people by trigger-happy cops.

Well, that and the cost of it. Grover Norquist’s bathtub actually drains into the carceral swamp, and we wind up spending more money tormenting the mentally ill than the cost of compassionate care.

Just from a hard-headed, fiscal conservative standpoint there are oodles of places to stop paying (very expensive) armed police to deal with matters which require neither arms nor police – matters in which the police have zero training or aptitude. The first place to cut: School Resource Officer. It’s definitely way past time to eject the police from our campuses, so that our children don’t have to face the challenge of learning despite daily official humiliations, in an atmosphere of fear.

Even the presence of a uniformed, armed officer on campus, except for a discrete visit, is vastly inappropriate. Besides being a frightening sight, it’s a profound insult – originating from the totally baseless wilding myths “white” people tell about Black children. They are not wild animals in a cage. We do not need deadly force when interacting with children.

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Where does that figure come from? I see a quote from the LA times which shows up when searching that says:

The LAPD budget , when pensions and healthcare are included, is expected to consume $3.15 billion of the city’s $10.5 billion budget in the coming year.

30% is still a lot. I also looked at ~http://openbudget.lacity.org/#!/year/2021/operating/0/program_priority/A+Safe+City/0/department_name but the numbers are smaller there (I assume because healthcare and pensions for officers are not included - but I didn’t dig in). (I know Garcetti is proposing defunding the police to some degree, but I’d be surprised if that affected this reference)

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Wouldn’t it be nice to find a legible breakdown of city budgets somewhere? I’ve been looking for a written citation (of something I heard on the radio this morning), and it isn’t easy.

The passage you excerpt is typical of the difficulties one encounters: What about pensions, etc? Some police officers make more in overtime than their regular salary (as you’d expect when anyone discovers a sweet shake-down). Is overtime budgeted, or waved off to “unplanned expenses” somewhere? The overtime gets incredibly hairy, because it actually augments their pensions – or so I’ve heard. I’m not an investigative journalist, so I have to find someone interested in untangling it all. I have difficulty depending on the LA Times as a source, as that paper has suffered a pathetic decline in the hands of its latest owner. It used to be a pretty good paper, too. (The SF Chron, by contrast, seems to be improving lately.)

A huge, unplanned proportion of Oakland’s budget goes to legal settlements with victims of police terror. God only knows how much Vallejo has paid out to all the families their police terrorize. No doubt that’s a large bill to pay in LA as well, and only showing up in what the city spent, not in what it planned to spend.

Way too many uniforms all over the freaking place, running around with nothing much to do, imho. It’s gets boring… (I know, let’s go shoot some negroes!) This is not what democracy looks like.


I don’t have a reference for my quip about settlements being insignificant I realize. I think I heard on John Oliver that there was about 1 billion nationwide and I heard on the same show or somewhere else that the total police expenditure is about 100 billion/yr over the US which makes it not sound that significant (at least not for showing plots of police budget year to year - I wouldn’t quip at a 1% error in those plots). But then when I start looking at police settlements, it seems like all the big cities are > 50 million/yr and some cities not so big are > 10 million/yr. Does this really total up right, I wonder?

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We need honest journalists with accounting degrees to figure it out, maybe. (Only, I’m not sure whether honesty disqualifies a potential accounting graduate, or not.)

The best general overview I’ve found, Alex Vitale’s The End of Policing, absolutely bristles with references.

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Drawing police candidate directly from military vets is a mistake. PTSD and wrong ROE traditions.

Its why military units gone bad tend to massacres. Unit solidarity tells them to protect the guilty as just another gun on the team. So they kill all the witnesses.

In war units that do not abandon each other under pressure (tendency of a group of strangers) outweighs the rare occasional bad event. But that is hard for troops to unlearn. Its easy for unscrupulous politicians (DAs and city council) with secret agendas (secret KKK background to real estate greed) to take advantage of. Just an off the record comment to the right turnip brain officer and you got your own death squad who will loyally take the “secret mission” to the grave for a few extra bucks.

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unfortunately that budget is in fact forecasts.
Its actually part of why major city police force police is to kill and not wound.
The city council sets that policy because…

Its readily available data that living lawsuit victims collect far more expensive settlements than dead ones.

Its because of the in-person effect of some one paralyzed or better yet from victims lawyers viewpoint someone with missing hand or half of face blown off.

That was even published in results of national mayors conference about 30 years ago. That the unintended result of the US civil lawsuit system was the bankrupting of Detroit and several other cities with accountant analysis telling city councils that it was clearly better to kill outright.

Back then wrongful deaths averaged only $1-2 million dollars whereas living victims averaged $10 million but could on occasion rise to $100 million. Of course if you started lawsuits in big city courts there was not much room for cities to appeal. Generally only state supreme courts and the size of the city usually politically poisoned chances of any appeal including the amount.

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Better yet require police to prove themselves as EMTs (Emergency Medical Techs) for 2 years first before granting arrest and force powers.

That will sort out bad attitude types and make sure they understand the potential effects of force.

Even better they can immediately treat the effects of supposedly non-lethal techniques gone wrong.

Best of all police first impulse and duty should be to save lives medically. Gone will be that helpless where police think their only situational input is to “clear the threats preventing EMTs from entering”. Even worry about wounding of police should dramatically drop - whether for themselves or partners. Medical help is right there.

Cities can then afford to equip police with tranquilizers other non-lethal means with assurance that allergic reactions and bad hearts will not cost them more in court than just pumping a full magazine into them.

Remember the fear of tear gas is primarily death by unusual respirator distress before EMTs arrive ready to serve. But if every police office is also a qualified EMT.

Heck its a shorter training step from EMT to mental health paramedic. So shooting or violence will often more clearly be second choice that can wait on developments. It will be medically knowledgeable people making the call that the situation is too urgent to wait on force rather than some medically ignorant police goober with anxiety about trauma victims deciding to go OK corral as it is today.


You’re making me feel like a naif. I’ve never before heard it raised that police-homicide is pursued as a municipal cost-cutting measure, because that’s how we’ve set things up with our Potemkin “accountability” for state actors. Remarkable!

You’re also remarkable. It’s not often I encounter the kind of surprises and revelations you share – even from the best journalists. Maybe it’s the spectacles.

If USA’s passage could culturally make the point that we’re better off using our heads, carefully constructing policy guided by intelligence rather than bullshit… My God, the implications are limitless. Now you’ve got me fantasizing that intelligence (not to mention compassion) might someday guide policy in USA. Before today I would not have considered that a possible outcome.

Great comment Observer.