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Black Lives Matter protests have taken place across the world since the death of George Floyd. Activists have long advocated taking money from police and reinvesting it in services that they believe would in turn stop crime, and the idea is now seeing a new wave of support. It has become a rallying cry of protesters across the world, and now lawmakers in the US are beginning to take stock of the demand.
Almost overnight and in direct response to protests, some mayors and other elected leaders in the USA have changed their position on police funding.
The mayor of Los Angeles has now said he would look to cut as much as $150m from the police, just two days after he pushed forward a city budget that was increasing police allocation by seven percent.
Most radically, in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, council members have discussed potentially disbanding the police department altogether.
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What does defunding the police mean?
Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of police entirely.
It would mean reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to crucial and often neglected areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services, which can lead to less crime overall.
While some activists call for the abolishment of police, it is an unlikely concept.
Defunding the police is largely an American issue, although there are calls by British activists to make this the case over here.
The amount of money put into policing is heavily disproportionate to how much funding other services get, and activists believe proper funding in the right areas will lead to a reduction in crime, for example focussing on youth groups and activities can help prevent crime.
Activists argue that surveillance and punishment that currently occurs and has been shown to disproportionately impact and hurt people of colour, and the money should be reallocated to support wider communities.
The cost of policing in the states has tripled over the last four decades – in 2017, state and local governments across the USA spent $115bn (£70bn) on policing, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.
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Black Lives Matter: Is it illegal to go to BLM protests?
Breonna Taylor: Who was Breonna Taylor? What happened to her?
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In recent months, while funding for the arts, education, libraries and youth centres have been cut due to the coronavirus pandemic, funding for the police has remained relatively unchanged.
Policing in the USA has been proven to largely be at its core, racist in the way it targets ethnic communities.
You only have to reel ofF the long list of now famous names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, among countless others.
However, in the UK, over the past 10 years, 163 people have died in or following police custody in England and Wales, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Death in custody is the term for anybody who dies while in the custody of the state – this could include while being detained by a police officer or while being held as a prisoner in a police station.
Of the deaths in the last 10 years:
- 140 were white
- 13 were black
- 10 were from other minority ethnic groups.
When you compare these figures to how much of the population these groups make up, as measured by the 2011 census, black people are more than twice as likely to die in police custody.
The 2011 census – the most accurate source – showed that three percent of the English population were black.
Shockingly, black people accounted for eight percent of deaths in custody.
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