Words matter. And the term “defunding police” takes a good idea and surrounds it with bad connotations.
Many people do not understand the idea behind the phrase. Some who do understand it see it as a way to dig a hole while we’re within reach of the mountaintop.
Casual observers understand the defund police thesis in the simplest, an inaccurate, terms as a way to do away with law enforcement. We can’t imagine anyone being in favor of that. We certainly are not.
The philosophy behind defund police ideas include making police a peacekeeping force, not a military one, and moving some “military force” money into softer strategies like mental health services, community policing and crime prevention.
All of those are worthy ideas. But they also deserve a proper and accurate description.
If the “defund police” term grows, as is likely in our social media infested world, the narrative will turn negative and support for real police reform will wane. And there remain plenty of opponents of any reform who will be quick to jump on the “defund police” catch phrase to build resistance, however misinformed it might be.
Unfortunately, we live in a message-fractured world where all participants in democracy are no longer informed by one set of facts. That makes societal change all the more difficult.
The first change in police reform must come in the message. Supporters of change must embrace a more accurate and understandable description.
It strikes us that reforming police is more about creating more equal justice and public safety than anything. Investing in justice and creating peace and public safety should be paramount.
Might we suggest the “Investing in Community Peace and Justice Act”?