Two emoji police officers one a woman one a man, with yellow skin on a black background with the words to de-fund or abolish in between them

The Difference Between Defunding and Abolishing the Police

By Timia Cobb
Web Content Contributor

The U.S. law system has many critics. Many of these critics believe that the system of police officers and various forms of prisons, jails, detention camps, etc. are dishonorable and are in dire need of reform. Not everyone wants reform. Some are fighting to abolish the whole system.

Since the murder of George Floyd, a magnitude of citizens has protested for police defunding and reform. The process of defunding and reforming the United States law system is completely different from abolishing it.

Those who advocate for reform and defunding still see a need for prisons and police officers. This is supported by the belief that without police officers, there would be no one to do the basic jobs police officers do such as attending to crime scenes, helping with traffic and upholding law and order. In addition, prisons are needed to house people who choose not to be civil companions of society.

While many do want to keep the basic outline of the law system that we know today, many are also advocates for change by reform and defunding.

The reform would consist of breaking down police forces into sections, reducing their power. By doing this, it would reduce the need for prisons and chances of forceful arrest or unlawful killings by law enforcement.

Police officers in military clothing stand lined up in downtown Austin Capitol Park in the middle of a protest.
Law enforcement line-up at the Austin, Texas Capitol Building during the Black Lives Matter protest. Image by Owen Morgan.

The vague duty of law enforcement that we know today would be broken into specific sectors and become a different concept. For example, when someone requires assistance due to someone breaking into their home, they would call a specific group of civil servants whose only job is to assist in the situation.

The goal of this reform is to allow no one the power to manipulate the law.

Reform would also allow a great decrease in funding towards the many items police officers need. Those funds could go back to communities, the education system, health care and more.

However, abolishing the police is almost exactly what it sounds like. First starting by defunding the police, disarming law enforcement, ending militarization in black and POC communities. Then hosting jail reforms and investing more into the upbringing of communities that have been targeted by police.

There are many activist groups whose main goal is to put a stop to the policing system that is in place. 8toAboltion is a plan started by Campaign Zero, a group of American police reform activists, that is compiled of research from multiple generations of activists that explains eight steps that can lead to abolishing the police.

Police Reform Now! Spray painted in white on the windows of Austin’s City Hall
“Police Reform Now!” is spray-painted on the windows of Austin’s City Hall. Image by Owen Morgan.

The 8toAboltion website provides information that advocates the abolishment of police and what exactly police abolishment means. The stated goal of police abolishment is, “…divest from the prison industrial complex, invest in our communities, and create the conditions for our ultimate vision: a world without police, where no one is held in a cage, and all people thrive and be well.”

Breana Miller, a student activist and senior at Texas State, fully supports the police abolishment movement and is happy to raise awareness of how law enforcement is not needed.

“I support abolishing the police because it has failed to protect and serve communities, specifically the black community,” Miller said. “The United States can benefit by redistributing those funds [funds allocated to police departments and law enforcement] towards actual institutions that prompt service and safety of communities.”

Miller went on to list various sources that could use the funding such as education, healthcare (emphasis on mental healthcare), community organizing programs and environmental conservation efforts. She later wanted to clarify that when she says “abolish the police,” she doesn’t just mean police officers, but the entire prison industrial complex.

As of Monday, June 15, 2020, protests for George Floyd and various others who’ve been killed during police violence such as Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and more has lasted for 21 days.

They shout for police reforms and abolishment. This problem of violent police altercations isn’t going away any time soon. Know the difference between reform and abolishmentEducate yourself, then decide where you stand. 

Feature image by Timia Cobb.

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