Talking Points for Defund the Police Week - Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Foundation

Talking Points for Defund the Police Week

What is Defund the Police Week?

  • Defund the Police Week is about centering true justice, joy, and humanity over criminalization.

Why doesn’t the current approach work?

  • The safest places in America don’t have more police, more jails, more prisons, or harsher sentences. They have better access to economic opportunities, quality education, stable housing, and health care.
  • Our communities are hurting. We need better schools, living wages, and more housing. It’s time we address violence at the root of the cause and stop crime before it starts.
  • The ‘tough-on-crime’ status quo is not working. It’s time to invest in solutions that are proven to make communities safe.
  • For decades, ‘tough-on-crime’ agendas have allocated billions of dollars in punitive interventions that have historically failed to keep us safe and instead harm families and communities. These taxpayer dollars are better used improving lives and making targeted investments that actually keep communities safer.
  • Calls to increase the footprint of law enforcement with more funding — with no accountability and no efforts to address and interrupt the root causes of violence — undermine safety and advance policies that rob communities of stability and security.
  • For far too long, we have relied on criminalization, incarceration, and policing as the ways to create public safety in our communities. This approach — driven largely by investments in the criminal-legal system — has failed our nation, and particularly Black communities. 
  • It is time we recognize that true public safety is brought about by equitable access to quality education, health care, affordable housing, and economic opportunities.
  • If we are to provide genuine safety to everyone, Congress must begin investing in non-carceral, community-led programs, rather than continuing to increase funding for policing tactics that have little prophylactic impact on crime rates. Since 2000, increased incarceration has had an almost zero effect on crime, including violent crime.
  • When violent cases do occur, an overwhelming majority go unresolved or uncleared every year.  According to  FBI National Data,  about 38% of murders, 66% of rapes, 70% of robberies, and 47% of aggravated assaults go uncleared every year.
  • The police are biased and often unlawfully target people of color. A study analyzing the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program revealed its ineffectiveness. It showed that 90% of people stopped by the police were not committing any crime and did not have any contraband or weapons on them. In addition, the majority of those wrongfully targeted were Black and Latino, and physical force was used half the time.
  • A study using 60 years of data found that an increase in funding for police did not significantly relate to a decrease in crime.
  • Since increased funding is not resulting in decreased crime, funding should be reallocated and invested into other forms of crime prevention or community safety programs.

What is the Solution? What does investing in our communities mean and why?

  • Everyone deserves to be safe, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money they make.
  • It’s time we invest in people and communities, not police and prisons, to keep people safe.
  • Real safety requires preventing violence and harm in the first place, not just reacting after something happens. 
  • By investing in solutions that are proven to prevent violence and harm before they happen, we can limit factors that exacerbate violence and improve people’s quality of life—making an immediate impact and increasing community safety in the long term. 
  • The federal government dramatically underspends on programs that are most effective at improving safety. But the Community Safety Agenda lays out innovative solutions that direct funding back to the issues essential to preventing violence and harm.
  • Black Lives Matter supports the Breathe Act & The Community Safety Agenda, which encourages lawmakers to put a downpayment on safety investments that our communities urgently need and divest from the harmful systems that are killing Black people.
  • We must build safety by investing in the actual communities suffering from violence, implementing proven prevention strategies, and investing in the resources and systems that make all communities thrive.
  • Community-based investments in non-carceral programs — not investments in the criminal-legal system — are most effective at keeping people safe and enhancing community wellbeing. 
  • Initiatives with proven track records, such as violence interruption and prevention programs, neighborhood mediation programs, and safe passage to school programs, should be supported. They should be implemented in concert with key system investments at the community level that improve access to housing, quality education, health care, and economic opportunity. 
  • Safe communities are those where people have access to affordable health care and mental health services, where schools have the resources necessary to provide a quality education to all children, and where people have safe and affordable housing.

What does the “crime” data say?

  • It is true that some forms of violent crime have increased during a global pandemic that has exacerbated economic and socio-emotional distress. This current instability associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is built upon the chronic, decades-long underinvestment in communities, as well as the continued ambivalence toward addressing the root causes of violence such as income inequality, lack of job prospects, a dearth of affordable housing, and insufficient public health infrastructure. 
  • But crime rates alone provide insufficient data to evaluate the causes of and solutions to the current situation in many communities, both urban and rural, especially as it pertains to violence. Social determinants of health and access to stabilizing resources like housing, mental health services, and living-wage jobs are all part of what makes communities safe and must be considered when developing legislative solutions to instability and violence.
  • So-called “tough on crime” policies have neither made us safe nor served justice for anyone. These policies have led to the targeting of Black people by law enforcement and the public based on a dangerous and wrongful association of Blackness with criminality.
  • Politicians have consistently made our communities less safe by upholding outdated policies that continue the shameful mass incarceration of Black people and perpetuate a history of structural racism and anti-Blackness in this country. We cannot arrest or imprison our way to safety. Investing in programs and strategies that address the root causes of instability in communities is the best way to increase the safety of all people in America.

Why would we defund the police?

  • The police evolved from slave patrols, meaning it was designed to police and monitor Black people. If our objective is truly to keep all people and all communities safe, then continuing with the status quo of the police managing our public safety has been proven unsuccessful. 

What does Defunding the Police mean?

  • It means reimagining and rebuilding how we keep our communities safe. We imagine funding being distributed to invest in community mental health, non-violent conflict resolution, and more. The current system is not invested in the development or healing, it is interested in punishment and keeping prisons full for profit. 
  • Defunding the police and investing in Black communities  is crime prevention. It is investing in true public safety. It is a step towards reimagining America’s criminal punishment system so that it works for everyone. 

Why is “joy” included?

  • When we finally achieve our goal of living in an abolitionist society, joy will be at the core of the Black experience.
  • We are defunding the police to invest in Black communities. We know that proper investment leads to joy and so we are manifesting freedom and investment by proclaiming joy.
  • Defunding the police is Black Joy.
  • Black Joy would be abundant if we defund the police.
  • You cannot support the police and also want Black Joy.

Community Safety Messaging 

It is tragic when any human loses their lives, especially to violence.  Our elected officials can save more people by offering real solutions that can end the never ending cycle of trauma Black, Brown, AAPI, LGTBQIA+, poor and disabled people are subjected to by police who terrorize their communities. 

  • Despite evidence showing that more money going to police does not reduce violence of any kind, politicians insist on investing even more tax dollars into policing and carceral programs. 

As we continue our push to reimagine safety in our communities, we need our elected officials to focus on the people, not police. 

  • 26 million people took the streets in 2020 calling for real systemic change that protects all communities, not just a wealthy, powerful few. 
  • Safety is about more than just policing to keep us safe. Law enforcement organizations across the spectrum have recognized that they have taken on too much. There is another way. 

Every time we talk about rising violence, we must also acknowledge that we’re in the midst of an economic crisis where every level of government has struggled to support everyday people. When forced into impossible situations, folks will get desperate. 

  • In the two years that we’ve been navigating COVID-19, individuals have received a paltry amount of money to offset costs involved with losing jobs, childcare, housing, and healthcare – not to mention the hundreds of thousands lives lost. 
  • Folks have lost their parents, partners, caregivers, and children to the pandemic. We are grieving, and there are gaping holes left by those we’ve lost – both emotional and financial. We need real, material support to help people meet their basic needs in this continued time of crisis.    

The media and political pundits, who constantly source law enforcement veterans for stories and information, need to incorporate voices from the legal community who have critically needed expertise when it comes to talking about gun violence and policing. 

  • We have tried and true solutions to both end police brutality and make our communities safer – from things as simple as installing more streetlights, to things like getting people out of prison who pose no risk to public safety, to bolstering things like healthcare, housing services, and education. 
  • The BREATHE Act is a piece of legislation that addresses and seeks to undo the root causes of community violence, such as fully decarcerating all federal prisons within ten years and match previously incarcerated individuals with the appropriate non-punitive, voluntary, harm reduction-based, and non-carceral reentry services. 

Biden’s priorities are focused on gun crime and violence against police apparently, rather than responding to Black people’s urgent calls for systemic change to stop the police from brutalizing and murdering Black, Latino, AAPI, Indegenous, disabled, poor and LGBTQIA+ people. 

  • We need our [insert elected official] to do better and be accountable to the people who put them into office rather than consistently centering the largest perpetrators of racialized violence – the police. 
  • Elected officials in Washington cannot fold to political pressure. Doing so would sacrifice people of color in exchange for holding on to power. 
  • From appropriations to the passage of the Build Back Better, we need elected officials to lead with bold policy legislation – not repackaged conservative talking points that put Black, Latino, AAPI, Indegenous, disabled, poor and LGBTQIA+ people’s lives at risk.