GOP Says Defund the FBI...But Not PoliceAug 17, 2022
It’s been a top news story since Monday, August 8th that the FBI conducted a search warrant on former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Almost immediately the GOP outrage machine kicked in. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) tweeted “Defund the FBI!” and that became the slogan. For a party that makes backing the blue a talking point, beating up police on January 6th and calling to abolish a specific federal policing agency is hypocritical to say the least.
While I agree with defunding the FBI (because I support defunding the police), it’s not for the same reasons. The GOP wants to get rid of an agency conducting a legitimate investigation into criminal activities by a rich, powerful, privileged white man to avoid accountability. I know the FBI has a problematic history of ignoring and excusing white supremacist violence, repressing liberation movements, and targeting marginalized communities.
Defund the Police is a loaded phrase because people with power and influence intentionally misrepresent what it means. And the influencers are so good at spinning misinformation that people who support prevention over punishment are advocating to give more money to police! In the State of the Union in March, Biden said, “…the answer is not to defund our police departments, it's to fund our police and give them all the tools they need, training and foundation and partners and protectors that our communities need."
He talked about community policing and prevention policies. But US law enforcement focuses on suppression and punishment, the way it was intended, and the US already spends more than any other nation on policing. I don't think it's possible to create a nationwide reset for policing. So why not shift those funds to proven prevention strategies under organizations that already focus on community support?
Here are some facts:
- The U.S. spends more on law enforcement (in actual dollars) than any other country.
- The size of our population doesn’t account for the excess spending because we spend more per person than any country except Iceland.
- Our policing outcomes aren’t better than countries that spend less
- US police kill more people in law enforcement interactions than any other country that reports police killings (In 2019, US police killed about 3 people per day –1127 people. France was #2, with their police killing 26 people in that same year.)
- The US incarcerates over 2 million people, more than any other country, even China.
- Rather than focus on violent behavior or fix circumstances that create precarity, the US criminalizes poverty and other social conditions.
According to DefundthePolice.org, of the 10.3 million arrests made per year in the US, only 5% are for the most serious offenses like murder, rape, and aggravated assault. 95% are for social conditions related to poverty and insecurity. Discretionary charges such as loitering, unlawful assembly, drug possession and others are used disproportionately against Black and Indigenous peoples. These non-violent offenses could be better handled through prevention programs and social services that use non-lethal methods. Decriminalization and prevention have been proven to work, but we as a society have to stop thinking of people as irredeemable and create environments for all of us to succeed.
Community Care Shouldn’t Be Controversial
Shifting funds from punishment to prevention, helping people make a living wage, secure stable housing, have access to healthy food and clean water instead of criminalizing and punishing people for not having basic resources shouldn’t be controversial! But in the US, we can’t even agree that healthcare is a human right or that everyone should have bodily autonomy.
Ty Hobson Powell explains Defund the Police beautifully here:
“Police are paid w/taxpayer $$$. If they are not answerable to us, we can demand new service & that’s what this is. #AbolishThePolice in favor of that new service”— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 28, 2020
A nuanced explanation of brand new paint on #BLMPlaza
Night before #MarchOnWashington #MOW2020 #DCProtests pic.twitter.com/nAkmFgDKO7
Everything Is Connected
Think about who and what benefits from over-policing and over-incarceration. White supremacy.
- In most states when someone is convicted of a felony, they lose the right to vote. In 11 of those states, restoration of those rights isn’t automatic or guaranteed. Disfranchising poor folks, Black and brown folks is on brand for white supremacy. (Think about the new laws making sleeping on state property a federal crime.) Over the last two years, at least seven states have pushed for laws to make sleeping on public property a felony.
- Private prisons are big business. Thirty-one states and the federal government incarcerated 116,000 people in private prisons in 2019, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population. Even with Biden’s January 2021 executive order to not renew federal contracts with for profit prisons due to underperformance compared to federal facilities, some populations are more likely to stay in those less safe and more costly institutions. 81% of the detained immigrant population - almost 33,000 people - were confined in for profit facilities in 2019. (The number of immigrants in detained in private prisons grew 739% from 2002 to 2019.) Biden’s executive order does not limit private contracts with immigrant detention facilities.
- The school to prison pipeline is real. We’re policing children, especially Black and brown children, for behaving like kids and putting them in the system as young as kindergarten. According to the ACLU, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of K-12 students and it affects their long-term outcomes. It would be more humane, cheaper, and way less traumatic to support families from the start.
We Survive Together
The US focus on punishment for circumstances, our “rugged individualism” as opposed to community support, and hyper focus on supporting big business and the rich at the expense of everyone else creates unsustainable inequality. Nobody in this country makes it alone. Whether they get support from a teacher, have the privilege to build their business in their parents’ garage, or just use the library and other public services to get their start, we are all interconnected. We need to recognize that our ancestors survived together in community. This myth of separation, “othering” people who don’t look like us, and the pathological need to avoid facing and tearing down white supremacy will be the death of this country.
So What Can You Do?
- Admit that white supremacy is real.
- Learn how it influences everything that happens in this country’s politics and everyday life.
- MAKE MISTAKES. AND KEEP TRYING. Take a deep breath and do any of these or find another way to change the norms in your circle:
- Explain that "Defund the Police" doesn’t mean anarchy to your “All Lives Matter” family members
- Use correct pronouns for your non-gender conforming friends
- Ask about the lack of diversity in spaces you occupy and push for inclusion
- Know that anti-blackness is a specific kind of racism and that Black women face a special kind of misogyny that combines sexism and racism and push back when you see it
- Pay Black people for the emotional labor of teaching you about oppression. (Paying white people to teach you about racism continues the dynamic of white folks benefiting from Black oppression. Pay Black folks.)
- Learn how to make equity a habit with 4 simple steps – Join Inspired by Indigo to get weekly lessons (usually 30 minutes or less) and practice in community:
- Self-care because healing is a form of protest
- Know Your Facts to undo myths and lies
- Undo the Work - what we’ve learned (and lived) about race, oppression, privilege, and equality
- Rest and rejoice to avoid burnout and disillusionment