Defunding the Police: Brief Overview of History, Models and the Demands of the Movement

The deep structural racism inherent in policing is becoming more visible to and less tolerated by a broader portion of our society. The Movement for Black Lives has popularized the work of abolitionists and galvanized social attention around the demand to defund the police and invest in education, affordable housing, healthcare, and community solutions to preventing and addressing harm.

As activists across the nation call for defunding the police, many attorneys and non-attorneys alike find these calls unrealistic, naïve or even dangerous. Why not reform the police? We can ban abusive practices and hold officers responsible for misconduct but why abolish the police altogether? Who will keep us safe?

At Equal Justice Society, we are learning from the new models for public safety developing across the country and supporting the critical work of envisioning safety beyond policing and justice beyond punishment.

Yoana Tchoukleva, Judge Constance Baker Motley Civil Rights Fellow, and summer law clerks Amalee Beattie and Josh Cottle, authored a brief, non-exhaustive, research piece as an invitation for further reflection and conversation.

Read the piece here online or as a PDF.