Respect for the cops in America has been steadily declining for a long time, though it absolutely plummeted in the 2010s. I don’t think this is because the police have necessarily gotten worse though. It’s just more that with the rise of smartphones, live-streaming video and social media, there’s now tangible evidence of their brutality that they cannot cover up.
The murder of George Floyd by killer cop Derek Chauvin, caught on camera and seen by people across the world, has lit a fire under the situation, the results of which you can see on the nightly news. One factor that’s particularly aggravating to the public is the increasing militarization of the police. We now have police forces with an arsenal that’d be the envy of any warlord: armored vehicles, military-grade aircraft, drones, gas grenades, sound cannons and, of course, dystopian-looking riot gear that’s got to have some of them wondering, “are we the baddies?” when they glance in the mirror.
Now, an open letter from Movement 4 Black Lives is calling for the police to be defunded. The authors argue that:
“Black communities are living in persistent fear of being killed by state authorities like police, immigration agents or even white vigilantes who are emboldened by state actors. According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $60 billion on police and corrections. In 2017, they spent $194 billion. A 220 percent increase. Despite continued profiling, harassment, terror and killing of Black communities, local and federal decision-makers continue to invest in the police, which leaves Black people vulnerable and our communities no safer.”
They say that these billions would be better spent on building healthy communities and investing in neighborhood infrastructure rather than on expensive weaponry to victimize and murder people. The science backs them up on this, with dollars spent on social cohesion and improving the economic outlook of an area far more effective in reducing crime than buying yet another APC for the cops to trundle around in.
This letter has attracted significant support from the world of entertainment, too, with prominent signatories including Thor: Love and Thunder‘s Natalie Portman, Captain Marvel‘s Brie Larson, John Legend, Lizzo, Taraji P. Henson, Common, Jane Fonda and America Ferrara. They’re putting their support behind a variety of proposals: that local officials pledge to vote no on police budget increases, vote yes to decreasing police budgets and yes to increase spending on healthcare, education and community programmes.
Sounds smart to me. After all, the cops’ current plan of beating and gassing people into submission isn’t working so well.