In the wake of the killings by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others, we are seeing a massive popular political realignment around the role and scope of policing in the United States, led by Black organizers and Black-led movement groups. More than ever before, this movement is calling for divestment from police departments, and reinvestment into the life-affirming services that help communities thrive.
It’s not enough for local governments to make small cuts, to invest in yet another set of flawed training programs, or to paint the streets with slogans. Cities, towns and local leaders must undergo a reckoning with the political power of law enforcement organizations which have a long history of vigorously opposing any reduction in police power; the amount of money that has been stripped away from necessary public services in favor of militarized weaponry and surveillance technology; and violence by law enforcement that has been enabled by racist, invasive, and abusive police practices.
The current spotlight on police violence provides a golden opportunity for local elected leaders across the country to take bold and swift action to reduce the footprint of police in Black communities and reallocate resources into alternatives to policing that keep communities safe and help them thrive.
To achieve substantive change, local officials need to commit to:
- Not accept any political contributions or donations from organizations or unions directly representing police officers if the organization or union opposes reducing the size, power or budgets of police forces;
- Decrease current policing budgets and, guided by community input, reinvest funds from policing into community services and programs;
- Limit or eliminate the role of police in situations where alternative interventions or responses would be safer and more effective.
ACLU affiliates have called on 42 elected officials – and counting – to publicly pledge their commitment to this vision.