FAQ

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We encourage you to use these frequently-asked-questions and sources to talk to your neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family about what public safety really means, and why the police have nothing to do with it. If we’re going to defund the police and win investments in our communities, we need to educate and agitate our neighbors to make abolition a popular demand!

Q. Don’t we need the police to prevent crime?

A.

  • No, police do not effectively prevent crime - they respond after violence has happened, often inappropriately. Nationwide, out of the 10.3 million arrests made per year, only 5 percent are for the most serious harms, like murder, rape, and assault. The other 95 percent of arrests are for minor “incidents” like drug possession, which serve only to increase the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people.

  • Police are tasked with responding to problems that they are ill-equipped to handle, including public safety issues related to poverty, mental illness, substance use, sex work, domestic and sexual violence, youth violence, and more. Instead of investing in policing and incarceration to lock people up after the harm occurs, we know that we can target the roots of these issues by investing in social programs that solve the conditions that lead to violence. Some examples include violence prevention centers, supervised injection sites, specialized mental health response teams, affordable housing and healthcare, job security programs, and better funding for public schools. 

Sources

Police Make 10 Million Arrests a Year, but That Doesn't Mean They're Solving Crimes

Why Crime Isn’t the Question and Police Aren’t the Answer

 

Q. But what about violent crime? What about “rapists and murderers”?

A.

  • Policing is a very ineffective way of preventing or redressing violence. Overall, most police departments only spend about 4% of their time responding to violence, and they do a poor job. Out of every 1000 incidences of assault and battery, only 33 will even lead to incarceration. Over the past ten years, most homicides in NYC go unsolved, and across the country only about half are solved, with the rate sharply lower for Black victims. When it comes to sexual assault, less than a third of sexual assaults are even reported to police for one reason or another—usually fear of retaliation or other threats—and only 2% lead to an incarceration, which just moves sexual violence into prison cells. Put simply, our current system doesn’t meet the needs of survivors or hold the perpetrators of these harms to account.

  • Our current system focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, which strips all humanity from the people who commit these harms. It’s up to us to address the structural problems that lead to violence (poverty, drug dependence, and mental health trauma) and develop restorative justice processes that center survivors of violence.

Sources

How Do the Police Actually Spend Their Time? (Published 2020)

There’s a nearly 40 percent chance you’ll get away with murder in America

Sexual Assault Remains Dramatically Underreported

What About The Rapists?

 

Q. Aren’t we currently experiencing a crime wave?

A.

  • As much as it feels that what we call crime is on the rise, major crimes in NYC have not increased significantly this year compared to last year. It turns out that we’re not in a crime wave -- although police unions, elected officials, and news media have encouraged the “crime wave” narrative to keep the status quo and continue to expand policing. It sounds like you’re concerned about violence in the city (particularly gun violence). The reality is that the police show up after violence occurs. To actually end patterns of violence, we need to invest in our communities’ wellbeing in the long-term. People are much less likely to commit violence if they have a job, a home, access to nature and recreational activities, and a community that looks out for one another. That’s why we are dedicated to the approaches that have been shown to provide safety: funding jobs, homes, education, access to nature and recreational activities, and services that will allow communities to keep themselves safe.

Sources

NYPD Crime Statistics

The Summer of Anti-BLM Backlash and How Concepts of “Crime” Were Shaped By the Propertied Class

Violent Crime Actually Dropped in NYC This Summer

 

Q. Not all cops are bad, right? Shouldn’t we focus on the bad apples?

A.

  • We understand that there are people who join the police hoping to do good. However, our reasoning all police, “good” and “bad” alike, are trained to use force even in situations where force won’t help. None are able to connect people with needed resources. They can’t handle mental health crises, or homeless people, or troubled youth, or drug use except by arresting people or hurting them. Common policing strategies are even associated with higher crime rates. Defunding the police means (1) removing police from the situations where they only exacerbate conflict and (2) investing in the staff and local services to provide the support armed police can’t. Police also have high suicide rates and a widespread sense of exhaustion and of being asked to do too much, so removing police from situations they aren’t equipped to solve would benefit police, too. 

Sources

Bad Chicago Cops Spread Their Misconduct Like a Disease

Opinion | Suicide is not just a problem for officers who defended the Capitol. It’s a crisis for all police.

 

Q. Why not reform the police to be more efficient and professional?

A.

  • As a slogan, “reform the police” has been around for more than a hundred years, and has only led us to where we are today: sky high incarceration rates and abusive, out-of-control cops. Modern police reforms and investments, even well-intentioned ones, like chokehold bans, mandatory body cameras, diversity initiatives, oversight boards staffed by police, and community policing can look good on paper. In practice, there isn’t much evidence that these reforms reduce police abuse or racist targeting —and there are many well-documented cases of their failure in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, Austin, and Chicago.

  • Politicians support reforms because they feel immense pressure from their constituents to “do something.” However, reforms merely give the appearance of systemic change while actually investing more power in police departments. When so-called “reforms” actually end up giving more money and power to police, it’s no surprise individual cops refuse to comply with them, and higher-ups decline to enforce them

 

Examples:

  • Body cameras: Body cameras don’t prevent police from committing any amount of harm, and almost never lead to discipline, termination, or charges against police violating policy.

  • Chokeholds: These have been banned by the NYPD since 1993, but that didn’t stop Daniel Pantaleo from putting Eric Garner in a lethal chokehold.

  • Diversity: In Ferguson and Baltimore, increased representation didn’t have an effect on its severe focus on stopping and arresting Black people in 2016.

  • Crisis Training: In 2017, Seattle believed that crisis intervention training would make their cops more willing to use nonviolent means. That same year, two cops who had completed the training shot a mother in front of her son after she called 911 to report a burglary.

  • Civilian Complaint Review Board: Has rarely led to any discipline despite about 4,000 cops having substantiated complaints.

  • Implicit Bias Training: Though this is very popular with politicians, there is not much evidence that implicit bias training has any lasting impact on cops’ own prejudices and internal police culture. Some research suggests it only makes cops more resentful.

Sources

'It's not about bad apples': how US police reforms have failed to stop brutality and violence

Newly Released Data Shows 1 Out Of Every 9 NYPD Officers Has A Confirmed Record Of Misconduct

Body cameras are seen as key to police reform. But do they increase accountability?
Does Having More Black Officers Reduce Police Violence?

NYPD Study: Implicit Bias Training's Effect On Policing Unclear

 

Q. Didn’t we already defund the NYPD?

A.

  • No, we have not defunded the NYPD. In June 2020, following the George Floyd protests, Mayor de Blasio and the City Council made a show of reducing the police budget by $1 billion in order to calm calls for racial justice. However, those changes essentially just moved police funds, like school safety officers, to other department budgets. In June 2021 the city, with the help of federal stimulus funds, actually increased the NYPD budget by $465 million, even as violence and shootings fell once again.

Sources

Did de Blasio actually defund the NYPD?

Five Fast Facts about the NYPD’s Adopted FY 2022 Budget

 

Q. Have any other cities ever defunded the police?

A.

  • Many other cities in both “red” and “blue” states have taken significant steps towards defunding the police and rethinking public safety.

  • For 2021 the Austin City Council cut its police budget by roughly 30% and the Seattle City Council cut its police budget by 20%, reinvesting hundreds of millions of dollars into social services like mental health care, housing, and alternative forms of public safety. However, the police force had its budget balloon by 50% this year, following massive public pressure from conservatives.

  • Eugene, OR and Denver, CO have instituted community-based public safety systems such that 911 calls are not routed through police. Instead, a trained medic and crisis worker are sent to respond to crises involving mental illness, homelessness, and addiction. 

  • During the summer of 2020, the Oakland City Council authorized a Reimagining Public Safety Task Force to create recommendations for ways to increase community safety through alternatives to policing and through programs that address the root causes of violence in communities. That same summer, the Oakland School Board decided to remove all cops from its public schools in response to a decade of activist pressure.

Sources

Austin City Council approves $4.5 billion budget, record police funding

CAHOOTS | Eugene, OR Website

Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program

Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Task Force

Oakland Eliminated its School Police Force - So What Happens Now?

 

Q. How would defunding the NYPD actually work in practice? Who would I call instead of the police? 

A.

  • We say “defund the NYPD and refund the people.” This means winding down the NYPD as we build up community-based services. It will look like many things, not one thing, since we are replacing a one-size-fits-all approach (police) with a multitude of targeted approaches (housing, jobs, education, etc.). It’s not a shift that will happen overnight. It will take time to design effective programs; recruit, hire, and train personnel; and test and tweak our on-the-ground methods. 

  • In practice, defunding the NYPD means removing police from schools as we hire and train therapists and guidance counselors. It means funding and staffing a non-police emergency hotline as an alternative to 911. It means funding restorative justice programs so communities can address and resolve harm, violence, and abuse without the additional consequences that come from arrest and incarceration. It means funding jobs, green spaces, and recreational activities, which will reduce violence in our communities and justify lower NYPD headcounts. It also means offering former cops the chance to retrain for new careers that will actually “make a difference” and enhance public safety.

Sources

Restorative Justice in Schools

Re-imagining New York City's mental health emergency response

Zine Copy | Website 

 

Q. The police have always been like this and will never change. Why should we bother?

A.

  • The abolitionists of the 19th century were told that slavery itself was too old, too big, too central, too powerful to ever be abolished. Nor is policing eternal. Two hundred years ago, the NYPD did not exist. We believe that we can reach a point where public, working class sentiment no longer views the police as a “necessary evil” for public safety, and we will be able to build a public safety system that serves all of us, just as the abolition of slavery allowed for Black suffrage. We have built our campaign by following the lead of present-day abolitionists, who popularized the demand to defund police. Defunding police is a vital step in a much longer process. As Angela Davis said, “freedom is a constant struggle.” We know it will not be easy, but we have a world to win, and nothing to lose but our chains. 

 

Q. Eric Adams won - isn't defunding the NYPD off the table? What power does he or City Council have over the NYPD?

A.

  • It’s true that our new mayor ran on a platform of protecting police funding. However, the results of the City Council election show us that New Yorkers across the city are tired of politicians continuing to fund police and jails while defunding working class communities. We see this in the mass outrage across the city over the humanitarian crises at Rikers, and subsequent efforts to shrink the prison population, which is a powerful reminder that everyday New Yorkers don’t see locking people up as the solution to social issues. We also see this in the number of winning City Council candidates who ran on reallocating money from the NYPD budget to community services, closing Rikers, and stopping new jail construction -- totaling at least 15 members of the 51-seat city council, about 30% of the entire body

  • With nearly a third of the City Council united around Defund, we can build a legislative bloc to stand up to Adams’ pro-corporate, pro-real estate, pro-police, and anti-investment stances. If we can build a mass movement of New Yorkers united around racial and economic justice, we could even start to move money from the NYPD into our communities as early as next summer.

Sources

NYC Mayoral Race: The Era of Liberal Peace Is Over

NYC Voters: Prioiritize Policing Alternatives to Tackle Violence 

Gov. Hochul signs Less Is More Act, announces release of 191 Rikers Island inmates

 

Q. I agree with your campaign, but why don’t you drop “defund"? It is polarizing/extremist/misleading, etc.

A.