Photo by Matt York for the Associated Press
- Nine of the 13 members on the Minneapolis City Council pledged to dismantle the police department and make a new system for public safety.
- The decision, made by a veto-proof majority, marks the most significant action to address policing that any city has taken since the killing of George Floyd sparked widespread calls to defund or abolish the police.
- While these ideas are not new, the fact that they have become more mainstream is. Still, there are many misconceptions about what that means in practice.
The Racial History Behind Policing
A veto-proof majority Minneapolis City Council members pledged Sunday to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new public safety system.
The move comes amid mounting calls to change police forces nationwide following the killing of George Floyd. While Minneapolis, where the incident took place, has faced the most pressure, protestors and activists all over America have been demanding that city governments defund or abolish the police.
When most people hear “defund” or “abolish” the police, they think it means lawlessness, but that is not true.
“For most proponents, ‘defunding the police’ does not mean zeroing out budgets for public safety, and police abolition does not mean that police will disappear overnight — or perhaps ever,” Christy Lopez, a professor at Georgetown Law School and a co-director of the school’s Innovative Policing Program, explained in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
So what does it mean? In order to understand the arguments that underpin the calls for defunding or abolishing the police, some brief historical context is needed.
Defunding the police and abolishing the police are two different ideas, but they both rely on the same general concept: Redefining what we mean when we say “public safety,” and reimagining what that looks like in practice. But it also goes beyond that.
As Philip McHarris, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Yale and lead research and policy associate at the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability told CNN, the practice also requires us to get rid of the idea that police are meant to protect communities, as many black Americans and others do not feel protected by the police.
That is in large part because of the historical roots of policing and law enforcement in the U.S.
Law enforcement in the South started as slave patrol— a group of vigilantes hired to capture slaves that escaped.
When slavery was abolished, the police were used to enforced Jim Crow laws. Now, police are far more likely to use force against black people, and black people are also disproportionately arrested and sentenced.
It is that racist history, proponents of defunding or abolishing police argue, that has contributed to the racial disparities we see in policing today and that normal reforms cannot address.
“American police departments were originally created to dominate and criminalize communities of color and poor white workers, a job they continue doing to this day,” the Minneapolis-based initiative MPD150 explains in a fact sheet on abolition. “The list has grown even longer: LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, activists– so many of us are attacked by cops on a daily basis.”
So what would defunding or abolishing the police look like in practice?
Defunding the Police in Practice
As noted, defunding and abolishing are different, but very similar ideas. In fact, many view defunding as a step towards abolishing.
In the simplest terms, defunding the police means taking some of the funding from police departments and investing that money into communities— specifically in marginalized communities where the majority of the policing occurs.
In many major cities, the police budget is the largest single expenditure, and according to the Urban Institute, state and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017 alone.
On the community level, defunding the police means investing in mental health services, housing, hospitals, schools, and food— “all of the things we know increase safety,” according to McHarris.
The idea here is that when we invest in communities, those communities will become safer, and there will be less of a need for the police anyway.
That sentiment has also been echoed by Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, who recently said in an interview with WBUR that defunding law enforcement “means that we are reducing the ability for law enforcement to have resources that harm our communities.”
“It’s about reinvesting those dollars into black communities, communities that have been deeply divested from,” she added.
But that is just one element of it. The other part is how we address occurrences where police are normally called, and that will not just go away even when communities are supported.
As Lopez explains, we have come to have an overreliance on the police to deal with everything from homelessness to domestic disputes.“We turn to the police in situations where years of experience and common sense tell us that their involvement is unnecessary, and can make things worse,” she writes.
So defunding the police also means shrinking their responsibilities and putting that money into other areas that are more equipped to deal with those specific needs. That means investing more in social and mental health providers, expanding community mediation and violence interruption programs, and providing more training to help de-escalate situations.
There are already some examples of this. For instance, one of the programs that the Council Members in Minneapolis have reportedly cited is one in Eugene, Oregon called Cahoots.
Cahoots is a nonprofit crisis intervention program, and according to its program coordinator, Cahoots has, “responded to more than 24,000 calls for service last year — about 20 percent of the area’s 911 calls — on a budget of about $2 million, probably far less than what it would cost the Police Department to do the work.”
Abolishing the Police in Practice
Abolishing, on the other hand, takes defunding a step further, and calls for getting rid of the police altogether— at least eventually.
MPD150, which has become one of the main resources for resources concerning abolition, flushes out the idea really well in its fact sheet.
“Police abolition work is not about snapping our fingers and instantly defunding every department in the world,” it explains. “Rather, we’re talking about a gradual process of strategically reallocating resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention.”
“The people who respond to crises in our community should be the people who are best-equipped to deal with those crises,” the fact sheet continues.
“Rather than strangers armed with guns, who very likely do not live in the neighborhoods they’re patrolling, we want to create space for more mental health service providers, social workers, victim/survivor advocates, religious leaders, neighbors and friends– all of the people who really make up the fabric of a community– to look out for one another.”
Instead of keeping police in some form, those who favor abolition argue that police would slowly be phased out entirely. Instead of just re-imagining and re-orienting the role the police play in public safety, abolishing the police calls for getting rid of that role, full stop.
In other words, defunding and abolition involve the same two basic principles: moving funding from the police to the community and shrinking the responsibilities of police, and reallocating them to others who might be better suited to deal with certain situations.
The main difference is that defunding is more of a spectrum. ‘Defunding’ the police could include cutting just 1% of the police budget, or it could involve cutting 95% of the police budget, and anything else in between.
The world of defunding is one where it is still possible that the police force exists, but just at a more limited capacity. But for abolition, that is just a first step in a much longer process that eventually results in the police as we know it being eliminated and entirely replaced with an alternative public safety system.
While the Minneapolis City Council decision certainly represents the largest attempt to dismantle the police, other cities have also recently begun to take at least some action.
For example, on Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would move some funding from NYPD to youth initiatives and social services, though he did not provide details.
Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to cut as much as $150 million that was part of a proposed police budget increase. That, however, is only a tiny fraction of the $1.86 billion proposal, and as a result many felt it falls short.
But on the other side, Garcetti’s proposal received significant backlash from police.
In a statement, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union for rank-and-file officers, said that the budget cuts would be the “quickest way to make our neighborhoods more dangerous.”
“Cutting the LAPD budget means longer responses to 911 emergency calls, officers calling for back-up won’t get it, and rape, murder and assault investigations won’t occur or will take forever to initiate, let alone complete,” it added.
“At this time, with violent crime increasing, a global pandemic and nearly a week’s worth of violence, arson, and looting, ‘defunding’ the LAPD is the most irresponsible thing anyone can propose.”
So, while it might feel like we’re far out from any large scale substantive change, a lot of activists say even the discussions that are being had right now represent an incredibly significant shift in the narrative surrounding the police.
“This is massive,” Cullors told the New York Times. “This is the first time we are seeing, in our country’s history, a conversation about defunding, and some people having a conversation about abolishing the police and prison state. This must be what it felt like when people were talking about abolishing slavery.”
See what others are saying: (CNN) (MPR News) (The New York Times)
Bodycam Footage Shows Adam Toledo Wasn’t Holding Gun When an Officer Shot Him
- Chicago officials released body camera footage Thursday which showed that 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by police last month, had put his hands up in the air right before the officer opened fire.
- The graphic video showed the officer, who has now been identified as Eric Stillman, yelling at Adam to stop as he chases him through an alley.
- The teenager obeyed and stopped by a fence, where he can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back. Stillman ordered him to drop it, and then shot him a split second after Adam raised his empty hands in the air.
- The footage prompted renewed outrage, protests, and calls for an investigation. A lawyer for the Toledo family called the killing “an assassination,” while Stillman’s lawyer defended the officer, and claimed he acted appropriately.
Officer Bodycam Footage Made Public
Body camera footage released by Chicago officials Thursday showed that Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old boy killed by police last month, had his hands up when he was fatally shot.
The footage, which was released as part of a report by the city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), showed officers chasing Adam, who was Latino, through an alley in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village during the early hours of March 29.
The officer ordered Adam to stop. The teenager complied and halted by the side of a fence, holding what looks like a gun in one of his hands behind his back. The policeman yelled at him to drop it and show his hands.
Adam turned and lifted his empty hands, and the officer fired his weapon, striking the teenager once in the chest. The policeman is then seen administering CPR and asking him, “You alright? Where you shot?” while blood poured out of his mouth.
The COPA report published Thursday also identified the officer who shot Adam as 34-year-old Eric Stillman, who is white, and whose lawyer said he had been put on administrative duties for 30 days.
Stillman’s lawyer also argued that the shooting was justified, as did John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
“He was 100% right,” Catanzara said. “The offender still turned with a gun in his hand. This occurred in eight-tenths of a second.”
Renewed Backlash and Protests
Adeena Weiss Ortiz, an attorney obtained by Adam’s family, said they are looking into taking legal action against Stillman.
“If you’re shooting an unarmed child with his arms in the air, it’s an assassination,” she said at a news conference Thursday.
Ortiz acknowledged the bodycam footage did appear to show Adam holding something that “could be a gun,” but argued the video must be independently analyzed to confirm.
“It’s not relevant because he tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois also echoed Ortiz’s demands on Thursday, calling for a “complete and transparent” investigation.
“The video released today shows that police shot Adam Toledo even though his hands were raised in the air,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois.
“The people of Chicago deserve answers about the events surrounding this tragic interaction. The anger and frustration expressed by many in viewing the video is understandable and cannot be ignored.”
Hours before the video was released, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot pleaded for calm in the city, where anti-police protests have taken place in the weeks following the shooting.
“We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace,” she said. “No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child’s last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place.”
Some businesses in downtown Chicago boarded prepared for violence ahead of the video’s publication by boarding up their windows. City vehicles stood by to block traffic.
However, the demonstrations that took place Thursday were small, peaceful, and spread out over several parts of the city. Organizers said they plan to hold more protests Friday.
See what others are saying: (The Chicago Sun-Times) (The New York Times) (The Chicago Tribune)
Eight Dead in Indianapolis Shooting
- Eight people were killed and several more were injured after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.
- The gunman took his life after opening fire. Authorities have not identified his motive yet.
- According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2021, there have been 147 U.S. mass shootings, defined as verified incidents with four or more gunshot victims.
- President Joe Biden released a statement calling gun violence “an epidemic in America,” adding, “We should not accept it. We must act.”
Eight Killed in Shooting
Eight people were killed and several others have been wounded after a gunman opened fire at a FedEx Ground Facility in Indianapolis late Thursday.
The gunman killed four people in the parking lot then four people inside before taking his own life, according to local officials. Authorities have identified the gunman and are searching his home, but have not disclosed any potential motives.
“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” Deputy Chief Craig McCartt of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said during a press conference. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”
Several witnesses told local outlets they initially thought the gunshots were engines backfiring or another type of mechanical noise until they saw the gunman. Some said they heard him shouting indistinctly before opening fire. The investigation is still in very early stages and victims have not yet been identified.
The facility employs 4,500 team members. It is unclear how many were working at the time of the shooting. FedEx released a statement expressing its condolences to the victims and their families.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our team members following the tragic shooting at our FedEx Ground facility in Indianapolis,” the statement read. “Our most heartfelt sympathies are with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. The safety of our team members is our top priority, and we are fully cooperating with investigating authorities.”
Gun Violence in the U.S.
This tragedy follows a recent string of mass shootings in the U.S., including in Atlanta, Colorado, Southern California, and Texas. According to the Associated Press, this is at least the third in Indianapolis this year.
The Gun Violence Archive has logged a total of 147 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2021. The organization defines mass shootings as reported and verified incidents with at least four gunshot victims.
Several politicians have released statements about the shooting, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who said this pattern “must end.”
“Yet again we have families in our country that are grieving the loss of their family members because of gun violence,” she said. “There is no question that this violence must end, and we are thinking of the families that lost their loved ones.”
President Joe Biden also released a statement saying that, “Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation.”
“Gun violence is an epidemic in America,” Biden added. “But we should not accept it. We must act.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett echoed those remarks in a news conference.
“The scourge of gun violence that has killed far too many in our community and in our country,” he said.
“Our prayers are with the families of those whose lives were cut short,” he added on Twitter.
Hogsett is among 150 U.S. mayors who recently signed a letter asking the Senate to take up gun legislation, including expanding background checks.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Soldier Charged With Assault After Shoving Black Man in Viral Video
- Authorities charged Army soldier Jonathan Pentland with third-degree assault and battery on Wednesday after a viral video showed him shoving a Black man while yelling at him to leave a South Carolina neighborhood.
- Many people, including dozens who protested outside Pentland’s home this week, condemned the confrontation as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
- Pentland and others claimed the unidentified man was picking a fight with neighbors, which the man denied, but police said nothing that may have happened earlier justified Pentland’s actions.
- If convicted, Pentland faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
A U.S. soldier was charged with assault on Wednesday after a video that circulated online showed him yelling at and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.
Footage of the April 8 incident was posted to social media Monday. It shows the Army soldier, Jonathan Pentland, confronting the unidentified man and telling him to leave the neighborhood.
The other man explains that he’s just walking through the area and doing nothing wrong, but Pentland becomes increasingly aggressive. “You better walk away,” he shouts at the man after shoving him.
“You either walk away, or I’m gonna carry your ass out of here,” he continues before adding, “You’re in the wrong neighborhood motherf*ker. Get out!”
The man then tries to tell Pentland that he lives in the neighborhood, and Pentland then asks for his address, which he does not give.
The confrontation continues with Pentland cursing and getting in the man’s face. As he does so, the man says that Pentland smells drunk.
It’s unclear what exactly led up to the confrontation, but in the video, a woman off-camera says the man “picked a fight with some random young lady that’s one of our neighbors.”
“I don’t even know who she is. Nobody picked a fight when someone ran up on me,” the man replies. Another woman off-screen then encourages the man to leave with her, saying, “What’s your name? Come on. You don’t want no trouble.”
Video Triggers Protests Outside Pentland’s Home
After this video spread online, many social media users condemned it as another instance of someone being attacked for “walking while Black.”
In fact, protesters even began demonstrating outside of Penland’s home. Those protests started off peaceful, but deputies were then called after 8 p.m. because unknown individuals vandalized the house. That forced police to shut down access to the area and remove Pentland’s family to another location.
As far as the viral video, deputies were told that the man approached “several neighbors in a threatening manner” and that someone had asked Pentland to “intervene.”
Police did confirm that there are two reports of alleged assault against the unnamed man Pentland shoved that are being investigated. However, they also added that the man has “an underlying medical condition that may explain the behavior exhibited in the alleged incidents.”
Either way, police said whatever happened earlier did not justify Pentland’s actions. He was ultimately arrested Wednesday morning and was charged with third-degree assault and battery. He faces a $500 fine and 30 days in jail if convicted.
“We’re not going to let people be bullies in our community,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference Wednesday. “And if you are, you’re going to answer for it, and that’s what we’ve done in this case.”
On top of that, the Justice Department reportedly was investigating. Pentland’s Commanding General even issued a statement condemning his behavior, adding that Pentland “brought disrespect to @fortjackson our Army and the trust with the public we serve.”