While the growing public cry to defund police departments has been met with skepticism and derision, many Democrats argue that the phrase lacks critical context.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) attempted to make this argument in a recent interview when she said it is “just wrong” to believe that fewer police officers on the streets would result in more crime.
Her remarks came during an appearance on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live as part of a panel discussion on the topic of defunding law enforcement. Host Andy Cohen first asked transgender celebrity Laverne Cox for her take on multiracial support for the Black Lives Matter movement against “systemic racism” and abusive policing practices.
“That’s not how it works”
“The fact that there’s a national conversation about defunding the police, I think is remarkable,” Cox said. “And that people of all races are having that conversation is really exciting to me.”
Harris weighed in next, arguing that a legislative approach focused on “reimagining public safety and how we achieve it” does not mean communities in America would become less safe.
“Ya know, for far too long the status quo thinking has been to believe that by putting more police on the street you’re gonna have more safety, and that’s just wrong,” she said. “It’s just, that’s not how it works.”
Pointing to “upper-middle-class suburban neighborhoods” to make her point, Harris noted that police presence is often limited without an associated increase in crime.
“Invest in those core needs”
You will not see that patrol car driving up and down the street and stopping teenage boys,” she said. “But what you will see in those communities is you will see very well-funded schools, you will see high rates of homeownership, you will see families that the parents have enough of an income from their jobs to not worry about putting food on the table by the end of the month.”
The senator went on to cite “the ability to afford the health care they need and the mental health care they need” as well as “access to capital” for small businesses as characteristics that allow such communities to naturally keep crime statistics low.
“So, we have to reimagine how we achieve public safety and understand that healthy communities are safe communities, and the way to create healthy communities is to invest in those core needs that all communities have, such as educational opportunities, job opportunities, jobs, homeownership, affordable homeownership and housing,” Harris concluded. “Those are the things that create healthy communities that are by definition safe communities.
President Donald Trump, however, has made it clear that he wants no part of a debate that includes defunding or dismantling police agencies.
As protests continue to give way to property crimes and violence in communities across the nation, Americans will have a chance to make their voices heard on Election Day.