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Podcast | Race to the White House: 'Defund the police' - The new war cry

V Nivedita | Updated on June 13, 2020 Published on June 12, 2020

‘Defund the police’ that has become the war cry for protesters in the US. I know, I promised to talk about Joe Biden winning the needed delegates to become the official nominee of the Democratic party, I’ll discuss that a little bit later, but first let’s discuss this war cry in this week’s episode of the Race to the White House.

What started as a demand for police reforms after the tragic demise of George Floyd has suddenly become a movement calling for defunding the police. But what exactly does that mean? Let’s take a closer look.

For some, defunding the police is reforming the way police function in the US – they want cities to cut some of the money that goes into maintaining police and prisons and spend it on health, education and other welfare schemes. Then, there are others who want to disband the police itself and get other alternative ways to maintain peace in the society.

The first category of people want the ‘demilitarise’ the police and ensure that they are not the first responders for a whole range of issues, from violent crimes to homelessness. They cite the huge budgets that police departments have, and they want to reduce it. Some of these budgets are huge! – take Los Angeles and New York as examples. LA’s police budget is $1.8billion, and the city’s mayor wanted to increase it to the more than half of the general fund. The budget for police in New York is nearly $6billion, but the city is cutting funds for education and youth programmes by as much as 80% because they can’t afford to keep them.

This is a viewpoint shared by a majority of Americans according to a poll by YouGov, which was conducted on May 29 and 30. They want officers to learn techniques to de-escalate conflicts and avoid using force. This has bipartisan support, with 94% support among Democrats and 83% support among Republicans. Again, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for ensuring officers wear body cameras. About 80% of the respondents favoured implementing an early warning system to identify problematic officers. This not only received support from the Democrats (89%) and Republicans (72%), but from white (81%) and black (88%) Americans as well. 

This is exactly the kind of reforms the Democrats are trying to get in a bill they introduced on Monday. It wants to ban chokeholds, create a National Police Misconduct Registry, incentivise states to mandate racial bias training and teach officers about their "duty to intervene", among other reforms. Some states and police departments are also considering implementing some aspects of the proposal.

On the other side, there are those who want to abolish the police force in its entirety. They say that the current system is racist and is ill-equipped to handle many issues. This is what nine members of the Minneapolis City Council said that they would move toward community-based strategies instead.

Now, how does this impact the elections? I am going back to Biden here, and then I’ll connect the two a bit later. He secured the nomination after winning seven states and the District of Columbia on the elections held presidential primaries on 2 June. He swept Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota on that day. On the 9, he won the Georgia and West Virginia primaries also.

Biden’s popularity seems to be rising not only among the Dems, but also in the general population. A new Morning Consult poll, conducted between June 1-7, found that he leads Trump by 8 percentage points, 47 percent to 39 percent. This is a 3-point jump from the previous week, and up 4-point from a May 25-31 survey.

Other polls suggest that Trump’s approval is on a decline. A Gallup polls conducted between May 28-June 4 shows that Trump's job approval rating has fallen to 39%. Worse still, it found out that on 47% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy. This is a steep decline from the first part of the year, when 63% approved of him in January and 58% in February. Also, the president registered an 8-point fall in his handling of the coronavirus crisis.  A poll of polls by FiveThirtyEight shows that Trump’s disapproval rating is 54.9% on June 11. 

Published on June 12, 2020