The Speaker
Wednesday, 24 July 2024 – 23:18

What does “defund the police” actually mean?

The Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, found himself in hot water after calling the defund the police movement “ridiculous”, during an interview, but what does it actually mean? 

The easy answer is that it does not really mean defund the police at all. Instead, it is a movement that calls for more funding aimed at local community policing efforts and social programmes, aimed at tackling the causes of crime before they develop.

The movement has largely been borne out of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the United States, following the killing of George Floyd, and successfully saw the Minneapolis Police disbanded and a restructure of the cities’ policing.

Defund the police has gained controversy more for its name than its aim, with the connotations being a disregard for tackling crime due to the disproportionate outcomes for black and minority ethnic (BAME) people within the criminal justice system.

Citing his experience as Director of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer stated his support for the police and said that the idea of defunding them was “ridiculous”, criticising the mechanics of the ongoing BLM protests.

Although Starmer was likely expressing opposition to the consultations behind the movement’s name – aiming to pitch himself as a serious politician rather than political campaigner – he has drawn criticism for failing to acknowledge the problems within the criminal justice system that are at the heart of the movement.

Defund the police has different meanings to different campaigners, for most it is about redirecting police funds away from the front line, and into preventative measures, but for some – likely those Starmer was criticising – it takes a more literal opposition to the police.

The name is perhaps problematic in achieving its goals, due to the notions that it raises, but the movement is part of what needs to be a serious conversation about the most effective ways of preventing crime in the United Kingdom.

Few are calling for police to be taken off the streets of the United Kingdom, an idea that likely does seem ridiculous to most people, but the movement is managing to successfully spark a new discussion into the way that the police operate and the disproportionate outcomes for BAME people in the criminal justice system.


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