Defund the Police. What it means and why we should support it.

Susan Saxe
4 min readJun 7, 2020

Been hearing calls to Disarm, Defund and Disband the police but wonder what it means and what would replace it? Before you react with the usual go-to arguments, here are some resources to get you started on the road to better understanding and the ability to participate helpfully in this conversation.

Step 1. Don’t panic. When people say, “Defund the police,” they don’t mean that overnight the entire system disappears without replacing it with anything. But really, we’re not getting much in the way of crime prevention or resolution now, for all the money we throw at it and all the abuses we are expected to tolerate as part of the cost.

For example, did you know that in this country one arrest takes place every 3 seconds but only 5% involve violent crimes? Everything else is low level and most of these problems are a result of counterproductive social policies and would be better handled by medics, social workers, mediators, mental health professionals, community groups and pretty much anyone but hyped up, armed and unaccountable combatants. But there’s no money for better, proven solutions, and the high cost of policing (both direct costs and compensation of victims of police misconduct) is a major reason why. And there’s more, plenty more, with data to back it up.

“In an effort to better inform conversations about criminal justice, a team of researchers from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research and policy organization, took more than two years to combine eight different federal databases into a tool that allows users to analyze arrest trends at the national, state, and county levels against a series of variables, including offense types, demographic factors, and solved crimes.”

What exactly do the police do and are they the ones who should be doing it? Are we just creating social problems and then making them worse with wrong-headed “solutions?”

“Can’t we just implement better policies, anti-bias training, more oversight, cameras, transparency, accountability…?” Sadly, no. Reforms have been tried and don’t work because the current system is designed to resist reform. This epic documentary by a director and Police Chief who, at the start, thought they were going to be documenting a success story, includes an explanation of how this all went so wrong. Like movies? You can stream it on Netflix if you can stomach it, or just read the article.

And here is one article that explains the poisoned roots in more detail.

“…But what about crime?”

Do police really solve crime? Not very much or very well, in part because they are too busy extorting revenue from low income communities of color to meet the very budget shortfalls that they are largely responsible for.

“…But what about murder, rape and hate crimes?” Sorry. Only about 40% of victims even bother to report crimes (see the Vera Institute analysis above). And of those 40% only 25% (10% of the total) are resolved in an arrest. And of those arrests we don’t know how many result in conviction or are even the right person because there is literally nobody keeping track of it.

How about property crime? No good news there either, but you already knew that. Ask yourself: Have you ever reported a break in, bike or auto theft to the police? Did you do so because you needed the report to file an insurance claim or because you actually believed that, instead of just handing you a copy and then forgetting all about it, some diligent public servant was going to track down and return your valuables? Not likely, according to the statistics.

“Isn’t police violence just a few bad apples?” Sadly, no.

Why does this persist?

So what ARE we getting for all the money we pour into this system? Well, we’re getting a lot of unnecessary violence resulting in whopping bills that cash-strapped cities have to shell out to compensate the victims. Here is a good source of aggregated data. Check out other links at the bottom of the page.

Are there alternatives? YES! Just as other countries seem to have solved the problem of providing health care more humanely and cost-effectively, than we do, and with much better outcomes, plenty of them also seem to be able to achieve lower crime rates more cost-effectively and without so much racism and mayhem. Here’s an article that just skims the surface but can point us to a world of proven, effective solutions.

Ready to be part of shaping those solution? Great! Here’s a good starting place for educational tools, plus good information about possible ways forward and how we can help.



Susan Saxe

I’m a lifelong radical activist, intersectional in outlook since back in the day when we just expressed it as the idea that “everything is connected.” It is.