Framing Police Reform

In the aftermath of the election, Democrats have been debating where we go from here. That’s normal and it’s what should happen after every election. Some of the debate has centered on Abigail Spanberger’s comments that slogans such as “defund the police” made it more difficult for her to win re-election in her just newly-purple district and on AOC’s response.

I think both sides are missing an important issue and, no surprise, part of the problem is a need for better framing.

Our goal actually isn’t to defund the police. Our goal is to reform the police and “defunding” them is one of the methods we need to use. Defunding can mean a number of different things. On one hand, it can mean simply cutting police budgets so there’s less money to spend on weapons of war, Big Brother surveillance, so much tear gas that they pollute the rivers, and so on. On the other had, it can mean taking money from police budgets and putting it into the budget for social workers who can respond to the sorts of situations that police aren’t trained to handle and often mishandle. Those measures can work along with eliminating qualified immunity, banning choke holds, setting up legal presumptions when police cameras somehow fail to record an interaction, legalizing the drugs that police use as an excuse to stop (black) people, and so on. All of these things help to reform the police.

So the framing needs to be that Democrats want to reform the police. We have a variety of ways to do that. This framing avoids sounding as if we just want to eliminate social safety and allow rapists and muggers to run wild — which of course, we don’t.

Framing matters.

Picture found here.

One response to “Framing Police Reform

  1. Some people really do mean defund the police. Instead they want the local Black community to build their own community “policing”. I’m not sure I think this is a reasonable option but certainly having local community oversight boards by precinct (instead of city or regions) with some level of funding and actual power might go a long way.
    I like to think that radical change demands are part of the process of moving the normative discourse toward the left. The right has gone far-right. The left will need equally strong left perspectives to counter.

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