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Terminology May Be Preventing Change

Common misconceptions Defunding the Police seemed to be a knee jerk reaction when we first heard it, but it has gained much more attention and support since then. Though there is a distinct difference between defunding and disbanding, some mistakenly get upset at the notion of defunding the Police because they picture a “wild west” […]

Common misconceptions

Defunding the Police seemed to be a knee jerk reaction when we first heard it, but it has gained much more attention and support since then. Though there is a distinct difference between defunding and disbanding, some mistakenly get upset at the notion of defunding the Police because they picture a “wild west” environment where there is no law enforcement at all. This is not the case and not what the initiative aims to achieve. While there are proponents of disbanding the Police altogether, these supporters more often than not desire a new system of public safety to replace the current, broken system. So, regardless of the degree individuals support the ideals mentioned above, all are seeking the same result, a revamped system of public safety.

The end-goal of defunding or disbanding the Police is to serve and protect the community better than it currently is or has been. It is essential to understand this because its purpose is to strengthen the core ideals that Police are fundamentally supposed to stand for. When people get caught up in the meaning of “defunding” the Police is, it only serves to detract from the message. One could even argue that the controversy arising from the discussions about changing our Nation’s standard for public safety is caused primarily by semantics. It’s easy to see how the terms “defund” or “disband” impinge on specific demographics. To a degree, it can come off as threatening public safety, when the intention is the opposite.

Polls provide interesting insight   

The abrasive terminology of the movement appears to be doing more harm than good. Recent polls done by the research firm Perry Undem and Huffpost/YouGov illustrate this phenomenon.

When individuals were asked if they were in favor of reallocating police funding to mental health experts who would become first responders, 72% were in favor. Around that same time, another poll was conducted to gauge the public’s support of defunding the Police. The results we drastically different, with only 27% of people supporting the movement to “defund the police.” Though it’s impossible to extrapolate these polls to form an accurate National opinion, the disparity is hard to ignore, even on a small scale.

So, why on earth is this happening? The reason behind it may be that many people still support the Police.

Despite an unveiling of egregious acts by officers, Police are still looked at favorably by many demographics. In a survey done by the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project, the lowest approval rating for Police by ethnicity is 38%, and that is among Black Americans. Though the approval of police officers has declined drastically, they are still seen favorably by over 50% of all other demographics.

Police have been around for so long that it is difficult to envision such an iconic presence as an unnecessary illogic. But policing is a historically backward process that focuses on reducing the harm or consequence of crime rather than just trying to have less crime.    

Change is necessary

A misunderstanding about what defunding the police means could be preventing significant advancement in racial injustices, poverty, substance abuse, and a variety of other issues that plague society, particularly for those in less privileged positions.  Reallocating funds from the Police to social services like substance abuse treatment and addiction recovery programs promises to save more lives and help more people. Given the rate that drug addiction was consuming the Nation for the last two decades, a dramatic reconciling of priorities has the potential to save countless lives

People tend to be uncomfortable with change, which makes reform difficult by nature. Knowing this it is crucial to make our Nation as comfortable as possible with the sweeping changes necessary to fix our Country’s system of public safety. This can be done by using a slightly different approach to achieve the same goal.

Words matter

Pushing for organizations that help make the community safer seems to be supported at a higher rate than defunding Police. Furthermore, the support and implementation of these groups would undoubtedly take funding away from the Police. Those seeking to change our current system could benefit by shifting their cause from “defunding” Police to “funding” the Community.

The social justice warriors of America have the attention of people and are in a position to initiate a significant transformation. It’s important to realize that using certain semantics may create misperceptions that prevent this change from occurring. Our society has started to understand the importance of what we say and how we say it.  As we begin to see more and more people being held accountable for this, those pushing for change understand better than most that how we say things does make a difference.

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