“Defund the Police” rhetoric serving as an obstacle to the cause of addressing systemic racism in law enforcement


Many people took to the streets during the summer and up to the 2020 presidential election in protest of systemic racism in law enforcement agencies.

Over the summer and leading into the 2020 presidential election, policing in America became a controversial issue with many believing that the police agencies across the country suffer from varying degrees of systemic racism leading law enforcement officers to target African-Americans more than others.

“I do believe some police treat African-Americans differently,” said Olympic Heights sophomore Andrew Nebenzahl.

 “A white woman called the cops on a black boy in a park because she thought he had a gun, even though he had a toy gun. It was blue and green or any bright colors. And the police got there and they shot him and killed him,” Nebenzahl recounts. “That’s why I think that some police treat African-Americans differently.

OH sophomore Marcklen Cirius calls attention to the highly controversial police shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville, Ken. police in March of 2020. The police were executing a no-knock warrant of Taylor’s home shortly after midnight. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were asleep when the police used a battering ram to gain access to the dwelling. Not knowing it was the police, Walker opened fire on the suspected intruders. The police returned fire, resulting in Taylor’s death.

“In Breonna Taylor’s case, the police did not announce themselves so what did you expect the boyfriend to do?” asks Cirius. “He shot at the ground to scare the intruders away, and then the police fired back. That’s how Brianna Taylor ended up dead.”  

Cirius and Nebenzahl agree that there is something inherently wrong with how police respond to situations involving African-Americans. They also agree that the problem can be somewhat rectified if funding used for reactionary, militaristic-type policing is redirected to community agencies that put emphasis on crime prevention. This concept has been labeled as “Defund the Police,” which is unfortunate as it misleads some people to think the movement is designed to replace police agencies altogether.

In an interview Wednesday on Snapchat’s Good Luck America, former president Barack Obama remarked, “If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”

President elect Joe Biden has also repeated several times that while he thinks there should be reform in police agencies, he does not buy into the “defund the police” concept. It appears that the rhetoric of those looking to address systemic racism in law enforcement has sometimes served as an obstacle to their end goal.

“I would defund the police by redirecting funds to schools, and also I would make it a law or a procedure to keep their body cameras on at all times,” Nebenzahl said. 

Cirius agrees,”Defunding the police is a step in the right direction.” Cirius also feels that police aren’t trained for certain situations involving people with mental health issues. 

Cirius also makes the claim that policing in America is based on the system that was used to catch runaway slaves. According to the Time magazine’s website, “In the South … police forces were centered on the preservation of the slavery system.” Many people, including Cirius, point out that an agency that was born out of racism has to be systemically racist at its core and that empowering such agencies helps to spread racism through this country like a disease. 

Movements such as Black Lives Matter are advocating for police reform and an overall better treatment of people of color. 

Nebenzahl shared his views on how police officers should view the Black  Lives Matter movements and others like it, saying that the police shouldn’t view such movements as the enemy. “Not all cops are bad, but cops with malicious intent or that are racist will view BLM protests as harmful protests,” Nebenzahl said. 

Nevertheless, that time could be a long way off. “Police officers should instill peace in our society, but instead they base who are criminals off their skin color,” Cirius commented.