‘Defund the police’: The view from Philly

Calls to "defund the police" range from major reallocations of resources to abolishing forces entirely. What could that look like? And what do Philadelphians want?

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Philadelphia police protect the entrance to police headquarters on 8th Street as protesters march by on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia police protect the entrance to police headquarters on 8th Street as protesters march by on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

You’ve seen it on protest signs, on TV and on social media. The call to “defund the police” is coming from demonstrators across the country, assembling in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis officer. In Philadelphia, residents have a range of views about what that means.

First, we hear from Megan Malachi, an organizer with Philly REAL Justice, about why hers and other groups in the Black Philly Radical Collective want to abolish the department entirely — and replace it with trained community responders. Then, PlanPhilly’s Catalina Jaramillo caught up with neighborhood leaders in North Philly who want change, but don’t want to see police go away entirely.

Hear the whole story on The Why

Megan Malachi on abolishing police

We believe that the police are fundamentally corrupt. We can trace the history of the police to slave catching, and we don’t feel that any organization that begins in such a horrible, violent system of oppression can be reformed. And we see that they can’t be reformed through the way they’ve operated throughout the history of the country. And we also believe that the police are not there to protect and serve, which is their so-called slogan. They are simply there to protect the interests of the elite, particularly the white elites in this country. And so our view is that we need to completely abolish the police and create something that we can hold on to that will assist our people in terms of issues of public safety, protection, all the things that we think that police should be doing, but we know that they’re not doing.

Jondhi Harrell, Executive Director of The Center for Returning Citizens on the need for police

If my little granddaughter or my little grandson is missing, I’m dialing 911. Two Sundays ago, when I came back from my office and my door was destroyed and my office was looted and in ruins, I dialed 911. My insurance company doesn’t want to hear from Black Lives Matter. They want an official police report. That’s the reality.

Nicetown-Tioga resident Shereda Cromwell on how she thinks of ‘defunding’

It’s a tough job. It’s a dangerous job. So I don’t want people to feel like when they hear that word “defund” that we’re trying to do anything to make their job harder … I like the word “reallocation of funds,” moving funds around. Taking a little bit of funds from one area, moving it to another area, within the big picture trying to support everything … In my community, where I live … the schools are low performing. If you bring some of those resources back into the community, back into the city of Philadelphia, I feel like that would help crime decrease and less policing would need to happen because people would feel like they have exposure and access to other opportunities or better choices. 

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