As physical and virtual protests continue nationwide in support of the fight for racial justice, calls to defund and abolish the police have sparked debates and called into question what systems would replace law enforcement. Adding to the conversation, Trevor Noah sat down with five activists — Patrisse Cullors, Josie Duffy Rice, Sam Sinyangwe, Mychal Denzel Smith, and Alex S. Vitale — to discuss alternative community-based programs that would help prevent crime and resolve conflict in place of police enforcement.
"What we're seeing on the streets today — when people say, 'defund the police' — yes, it's about these immediate changes . . . but it's also about a generation of young people crying out for a world that isn't driven by racial and class inequalities that are enforced by policing," explained Vitale, an author and professor. He added: "Every time we turn a problem over to [the police], it makes those inequalities worse in the long run. So police abolition is about trying to reduce the burden of policing today while we work to build something better for the future."
"We're relying on a cruel system to reduce cruelty, and we are funding the back end of social ills instead of the front end of addressing them."
The idea of living in a society without police officers has many questioning what would happen in the event of major crimes, such as a homicide or kidnapping. On this topic, Rice, the president of The Appeal, said: "The reality is that the police aren't doing a very good job of handling those situations, and that when we picture accountability in this country, we're relying on a violent system to reduce violence. We're relying on a cruel system to reduce cruelty, and we are funding the back end of social ills instead of the front end of addressing them. . . . We are dreaming of a new world."
Cullors, an artist and activist, went on to point out that there are jobs currently handled by the police that would be better suited for social workers or people in the mental health field, such as managing homelessness across the United States. By dividing the responsibilities that police officers are currently given among people who are specifically trained to handle them, the Black community and the country as a whole would see a wealth of positive change, Cullors noted.
All five activists are advocating for both immediate reform, in regards to changing policies that allow law enforcement officers to get away with police brutality, and long-term reform, in regards to changing the way laws are enforced in the future. "We do need many groups and people to have the right understanding of this moment and how to move forward," Cullors said. Watch the full video above, and visit the Black Livers Matter and Movement For Black Lives websites to learn more about the movement to defund the police.