People / Resolutions

What ‘Defund the Police’ actually means

John Oliver last week tonight

If you don't already watch Last Week Tonight, you absolutely should. Host, John Oliver has a simple and smart way of breaking down even the most complicated issues and explaining them in a digestible and humorous way.

This week he explained the concept of defunding the police. It's an issue that he explains eloquently, factually and most importantly in way that is easy to understand.

You might have heard or seen that many people are crying out to defund the police. This does not mean eliminating the police or removing the police. What it does mean is taking some of the public funds from the police and moving those funds into other public service areas.

Oliver explains that in the past, America actively boosted funding for police - and gave police officers more and more authority. All the while, America slashed public funding in key social service areas in response. The result is the police are required to deal with problems and issues that shouldn't technically concern them.

Oliver shows a clip of David Brown a former police chief in Dallas. Brown explains that officers are being asked to handle too many issues.

"We're asking cops to do too much in this country. We just are. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops to solve. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cops handle it."

Whether it be a lost dog or a mental health or drug issue - these particular occasions would be better handled by another faction of society like social workers or rehabilitation. But with the many police forces receiving a huge portion of public money, and the other areas receiving little - the police force will often be the only public service with the resources to pay attention or deal with these issues.

Throw in that the modern police force comes from the horrifically racist practice of "slave patrolling", you have a recipe for a toxic system that perpetuates racism rather than dismantling it.

The history of policing is deeply ingrained in a history of white privilege and white supremacy. I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but if you haven't yet watched Ava DuVernay's 13th, you really need to. It explains exactly how laws and policing were specifically designed to subjugate People of Colour. Continuing to pour public funds into a broken system, and pulling these funds away from areas that could helps to offer repair is a practice that we should stop - immediately.

From an Australian perspective, we need to acknowledge that many of these issues plague our system too. In the last few weeks, Australians have witnessed the incident of an Indigenous boy being tripped and slammed into the ground upon arrest. It's not even clear why he was being arrested in the first place. This is hardly an isolated incident. What can any of us do when the people who are supposed to protect us are the ones hurting our community?

It's a difficult question, but maybe we need to defund our police too.

John Oliver's Last Week Tonight is available to watch on Foxtel for Australians. It airs here weekly at 8:30pm on Monday nights.