As the protests over the death of George Floyd continue in Detroit and across the country, one of the demands protesters are making is to “defund” police departments.
In Minneapolis, where police officers killed George Floyd, the city council committed to dismantling their police department.
So what does “defunding” mean and would it help?
“We are simply trying to point out that there are a lot of duties that the police do that actually don’t require force, or escalation or a gun,” said Rai Lanier. Lanier is the Wayne County Director for Michigan Liberation, a criminal justice reform organization participating in the protests.
“Let’s build up mental health professionals who can come in and handle domestic disputes,” Lanier said.
“I think that many people are calling for a de-funding on the way to dismantling and abolishing all together,” said Detroit Justice Center Executive Director Amanda Alexander. She says the concept of defunding police is not new, and more must be done to stop police brutality.
“The solutions on offer have always been things like we need implicit bias training, or body cameras or more diverse police forces. But that hasn’t changed anything,” said Alexander. “So what people are calling for is a reduction in contact with police.”
“I don’t say defund, I say shift the money to where change could actually take place,” said David Robinson.
Robinson is a former Detroit cop turned lawyer who’s spent the last 3 decades suing police departments for excessive force and other civil rights violations. Robinson says better options include making it mandatory for departments to review their actions any time police use force and making it easier to fire cops who violate policy.
“The psychology of policing, in and of itself, if that isn’t changed you’re going to have the exact same problems,” Robinson said.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will be meeting with protesters tomorrow to go over the changes they want. But he says Detroiters constantly tell him they want more cops on the street, not less.
“What the people of the city say is, we want the police to come even faster. The other thing that I hear almost every day, is that Detroit has one of the highest rates of fatalities from hit-and-runs. We’ve got people speeding through these neighborhoods on these streets almost on a daily basis. I hear from Detroiters: ‘why can’t we have more officers patrolling the streets, slowing this traffic down so that our children are protected,’” said Mayor Duggan.
The Mayor also announced today a new plan to create a community health corps to help residents in need.
Duggan meets on Tuesday with protesters to listen to the changes they want to make.