In many localities, police, police unions, and other law enforcement organizations, along with some media and elected officials, rely on fear-mongering about crime to counter efforts to shift money from police budgets into programs and departments that invest in our communities thriving. This fear-mongering is a long-standing practice used to justify “law and order” policies and increasing bloated police budgets. These arguments are not based on sound data.
The following are some resources and references to help reclaim the narrative to focus on community needs and solutions.
- Narrative, messaging & communications best practices on public safety (Local Progress)
- Cops don’t stop violence: combating narrative used to defend police instead of defunding them. (Community Resource Hub & Interruptive Criminalization)
- Safer Cities. Safer Cities helps journalists, public officials, and advocates cut through the noise of a national crime discourse that is often confusing and misleading. They provide data, analysis, and context to create safer cities.
Helpful data and framing points:
Dozens of local governments across the country have launched programs, policies, and budget changes grounded in a public health approach to public safety. These efforts are already having an impact and this work is overwhelmingly supported by the public.
- Seventy-three percent of voters support creating a new agency of first responders, like emergency medical services or firefighters, to reroute some 911 calls away from armed police officers to medical professionals who are better situated than armed police officers to respond to mental health and homelessness related situations.
- National polls show strong bipartisan support for violence intervention programs and an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Americans (76%) support using money from the American Rescue Plan to fund such programs.
- Even the national media have begun exploring what it means to reimagine public safety.
Research has shown that community-based responses and greater access to stable housing, healthcare, drug addiction treatment, and other supports can reduce violence. For example, one study found that for every 10 additional community-based non-profits in a city with 100,000 residents reduces the murder rate by 9%, the violent crime rate by 6%, and the property crime rate by 4%.
Police respond after harm is done, and they do not facilitate healing or repair for the harms done. Thus, even if they provide some deterrence effect, they do not address the root causes of harm or prevent people from doing harm again. However, reinvesting in our communities to help people thrive, as well as in violence interruption and other community-based programs, address the root causes of harm. Restorative justice programs are designed to facilitate healing, accountability, and repair.
The trend of the past few decades of massively investing in police, jails, and prisons while divesting in the social safety net significantly disrupted Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and low-income communities. In doing so, local, state, and federal governments invested money into tools (police and prisons) that perpetuate violence and out of programs that increase community stability, safety, and well-being.
“There is a deeper crack in the logic of claims that more violence requires more cops: we have options beyond simply increasing or decreasing the number of cops or how much money we spend on them. The real choice is between policing and a wide array of alternatives. People advocating for more police funding are not pointing to a single study that proves that increasing numbers of resources to cops is a more effective way to prevent, intervene in or heal from violence than other approaches, including meeting people’s material needs, community-based crisis responders, or more teachers. It is not enough to show that police have a marginal effect on ‘crime’ or ‘violence’--the question is what is the best way to achieve safety?” - Cops Don’t Stop Violence