Defunding the police is not what it sounds like, say activists and academics

Chances are a week ago many of us had not heard terms like "Defund, Dismantle or abolish the police."

All that is changing now, but what exactly do protesters mean when they say it? They do not mean getting rid of police officers.

"What we mean by dismantling and defunding the police, is instead of having our response to social ills be brute force, let's actually restore and heal and resolve," said activist Tristan Taylor.
Taylor, leader of the Detroit Will Breathe Movement is talking about what has become a rallying cry in protests across the country. And while phrases like "Abolish the Police" seem self-explanatory - experts say they are really not. 

"What it really is, is reimagining how we interact with the police," said Eric Williams, senior staff attorney for Detroit Justice Center. "Reimagining a society, one that prioritizes the real well-being of individuals and communities and has a budget that actually reflects that."

Williams says police reform advocates have been talking about the ideas behind the phrases for years. They include restricting police departments from buying military style equipment and investing in surveillance programs like Project Greenlight. Instead, cities would invest those funds in education, mental health services.

"The safest communities are not the ones with the greatest police presence," Williams said. "The safest communities are the ones that spend the most per capita on education than on police. If we really believe what we want to create is public safety, then we should make sure our budgets reflect that."

One community that dismantled its police department was Camden, New Jersey in 2013 where the county taking over for the city department.

Charles Klahm Wayne State University criminal justice professor 

"New form of policing, the new organization was much more centered on community oriented policing," said Charles Klahm, Wayne State University criminal justice professor. "Bonding with the community, getting to know the community, etcetera. So it changed the whole underlying philosophy. 

"Some of the promising results coming from Camden is that over the last seven years has shown that homicides are down, excessive use of force complaints are down, despite the change in police methodology."