When activists took to the streets to demand politicians “defund the police,” they actually did not want a single dollar cut from police budgets but simply wanted funding streams changed to better protect police officers, an MSNBC host claimed Tuesday morning.
“The idea behind Defund the Police is not to take money away from the police force, but to redeploy money in better, smarter ways to keep law enforcement safe, to keep communities safe,” said MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle during the network’s weeklong “Future of the Force” segment.
She went on to ask Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, “Do you see it working? How do you see it impacting our most vulnerable communities?”
Acevedo pushed back against the sanitized definition of the police abolition movement.
“Well, look, first of all Defund the Police means different things to different people. For some folks, it means abolishing the police. For some other folks, it means to cut the police. But for folks that need us the most, which is unfortunately communities of color, it means less safety for them,” he said. “This Defund the Police, this ‘Let’s not invest in good policing,’ will not impact affluent neighborhoods, affluent communities; it will impact the communities that need us most.”
“And I can tell you having worked in the most diverse city in the country that if you go into high-crime neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, and you tell them you want to defund the police, they will scream you out of there,” said Acevedo, who also served as chief of police in Austin.
He seemingly made a reference to Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s segment on the wealthy Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead forming a separate community over safety and policing concerns before encouraging MSNBC’s left-of-center viewers to support police funding as they would other government spending programs, like healthcare and job training.
Ruhle seemingly ignored his comments and returned to her talking points, expressing her wish that “all lawmakers want all Americans to be better, safer, and smarter in their communities.”
Ruhle’s belief that “Defund the Police” means “fully fund the police” could hardly conflict more with the term’s originators — nor, in many cases, could her concern about the safety of police officers.
Black activists called on lawmakers to “abolish” the police no later than 2016. After Democratic politicians began watering down the term Defund the Police in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, Mariame Kaba wrote a New York Times op-ed last June titled “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police.”
“Enough. We can’t reform the police,” she wrote. “There is not a single era in United States history in which the police were not a force of violence against black people.”
Public spokespeople were clear that, at a minimum, Defund the Police meant denying law enforcement copious amounts of taxpayer funding. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) complained after New York City cut the NYPD’s budget by an estimated $1 billion, “Defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math.”
Much of the difference between the terms “Defund the Police” and “Abolish the Police” is semantic, wrote University of California Davis professor Joshua Clover last summer. “Those preferring the former regularly insist that ‘defund‘ assuredly means ‘abolish’ while being more apprehensible to newcomers; it has a broader appeal,” he wrote.
In either case, Congressional Democrats will not object, having voted down an amendment in March from Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) that “condemns calls to ‘defund,’ ‘disband,’ ‘dismantle,’ or ‘abolish’ the police.”
Mayors in major metropolitans areas agree with Acevedo’s observation that calls to Defund the Police have increased violent crime. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) said, “When you make big, overarching statements that we’re going to defund or abolish and dismantle the police department and get rid of all the officers, there’s an impact to that.”
You can watch the interview below: