Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /customers/1/a/0/newsgroove.co.uk/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/newsmax-core/includes/core.php on line 212 Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /customers/1/a/0/newsgroove.co.uk/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/newsmax-core/includes/core.php on line 212 Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type bool in /customers/1/a/0/newsgroove.co.uk/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/newsmax-core/includes/core.php on line 212
Politics

'Defund the police' is not nonsense. Here's what it really means | Adam Elliott-Cooper


When Keir Starmer condemned demands to defund the police as “nonsense” on BBC Breakfast on Monday, it prompted dismay from criminal justice system reformers and supporters of Black Lives Matter. In dismissing what amounts to a realistic and serious policy approach, Starmer ignores two critical facts: that policing has entirely failed to improve public safety, and that there are numerous constructive alternatives to ineffective attempts to “police away” social problems.

It seems likely that some critics have misunderstood what defunding really means. Campaigns to defund the police and prison system do not argue that every prison should close tomorrow and every police officer be sacked the day after – they argue that social problems are better addressed through social responses. It may be hard to fathom, but no matter how much policing and prisons have expanded in the last 30 years, there has been no improvement in public safety.

It’s worth emphasising just how extensive the existing funding has become. Britain has the second largest policing budget per capita in Europe and has some of the most wide-reaching and intrusive public surveillance measures in the world. This includes a police programme that has spied on more than 1,000 organisations, including black families campaigning against police racism, and my own organisation, the Monitoring Group. While the cost of this spying is almost impossible to quantify, the cost of the inquiry into the spying alone is at least £17m.

Less than a week ago, the government announced it was spending £2.5bn on four new prisons to incarcerate 10,000 people. The total bill for the UK criminal justice system, comprising policing, law courts and prisons in 2018-19 was £28.8bn – more than we spend on primary education, more than we spend on social care and far more than we spend on social housing or the environment. But it is precisely these areas of public life which hold the solutions to the problems that the police and prison system are failing to improve. Defunding the police does not mean an immediate end to policing, but instead investing in social policies that prevent people from experiencing violence and harm in the first place.

READ  Downing Street 'vows to abolish BBC licence fee' amid ongoing row

According to Unite, since 2012 more than 750 youth centres have closed, and over 4,500 youth workers have been laid off in England and Wales. Hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable young people have been cut off from a vital resource: trusted adults in whom they can confide, particularly if they are at risk of violence, being pressured into criminalised activity, or living in dangerous home environments. Interventions should be available to our young people before they encounter the criminal justice system. The situation is dire – two-thirds of young people with diagnosed mental health conditions who try to access mental health services have to be turned away. In the meantime, the government is pushing policies to have police officers permanently stationed in schools.

People with mental health problems, special educational needs or experience of school exclusion are grossly overrepresented in prisons, and it is a cruel irony that, against this backdrop of reduced mental health and educational provision, police are often left to deal with this problem. This approach has been criticised for neglecting the needs of young people and uses criminalisation as a first resort for the social problems they face.

No one should be surprised at Starmer’s response to the calls for defunding. “I worked with police forces across England and Wales bringing thousands of people to court,” he told BBC Breakfast, “so my support for the police is very, very strong.” Starmer’s tenure as director of public prosecutions (DPP) took place during one of the most rapid increases in police powers Britain had ever seen.

READ  Why does Boris Johnson want an election and what is his stance on Brexit?

Between 1993 and 2016, the prison population in England and Wales almost doubled, and within a year of release, almost half of incarcerated adults are reconvicted. We have the largest prison population in western Europe. Despite reforms, training and inquiries into police racism, black Britons make up 12% of adult prisoners and more than 20% of children in custody – compared to just 3% of the general population. Amnesty has reported that anti-gang policing targets black young people with little or no connection to violent crime. But Black Lives Matter protesters do not demand police defunding because of institutional racism alone: it is a demand that seeks tangible, evidenced and effective improvements in public safety for all, beginning with those who need it most.

From domestic violence services to new social housing and the restoration of the educational maintenance allowance for those in post-16 education, there are innumerable investments that should be made before we continue to throw good money after bad. The best way to tackle racism in our criminal justice system and create safer communities for everyone is through reducing police power and resources, while bolstering the capacity of our health, social and educational systems. Keir Starmer’s approach will only add more harm to our society, rather than resolving it.

Adam Elliott-Cooper is a research associate in sociology at the University of Greenwich. He sits on the board of the Monitoring Group



READ SOURCE

Leave a Reply