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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Nationwide protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, the latest in a long string of high-profile slayings of black men by white officers, have featured a common rallying cry: “Defund the police.”
The movement predates the current protests and is driven both by anger at the militarized posture of many U.S. police departments and by the recognition they are being called on to confront social ills including addiction, mental illness and homelessness that, advocates say, could be better addressed by spending on social services and rethinking what behaviors should be considered crimes.
Demands on streets from New York to Los Angeles have given higher prominence to the idea, drawing the attention of big-city mayors and on the presidential campaign trail.
WHAT DO PEOPLE MEAN BY ‘DEFUND THE POLICE’?
Some envision virtually abolishing modern police departments, which first appeared in the 19th century, and in some southern states grew out of patrols organized to catch runaway slaves.
Others see it as a call to slash city police budgets, which have grown significantly since the 1990s, particularly after a 1994 crime bill signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, according to criminal justice activists. Policing and corrections accounted for about 30% of general funding in Atlanta and Orlando in 2017, and nearly 40% in Chicago, according to a report from the Center for Popular Democracy, an advocacy group.
Defunding advocates say money saved on policing could then be diverted to social programs.
“They don’t think the police can be fixed, so they’re trying to figure out how to reduce the burden of policing,” said Alex Vitale, a sociology professor at Brooklyn College who wrote the 2017 book “The End of Policing.”