Posted on May 24, 2021

“Defund the Police” Lives on as a Local Movement

Fadel Allassan, Axios, May 23, 2021

In the absence of support from President Biden and most national Democrats, the “Defund the Police” movement has gone local, ushering in an unprecedented wave of cuts to departments in major cities around the country in the year since George Floyd’s death.

The big picture: At least 20 large U.S. cities have reduced their police budgets in some form, adding up to some $840 million, per data from the progressive group Interrupting Criminalization and media reports from across the country. 25 have ended contracts with police operating in schools.

  • Supporters say they hope it’s just the beginning of a process to buck a decades-long trend of increased police spending in the U.S., and the first steps toward their vision of reimagining public safety.
  • But some critics note that crime has gone up since the cuts and believe the budget reductions are one of the reasons demoralized police officers have left the forces.
  • And police training experts say the cuts will be counterproductive, making it harder to improve officers’ training and teach them alternatives to using force.

In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, the city council slashed $8 million from its police department. It reinvested $2 million in community-based violence prevention programs and a new mobile mental health team.


Between the lines: The phrase “Defund the Police” is now a polarizing term, but an Axios-Ipsos poll found that the original goal of shifting funds to social services like mental health and education is still popular.

  • When asked if they support the “Defund the Police” movement, 70% of all respondents opposed it, including a slight majority of Black Americans (52%). But when asked if they supported diverting some police funds to community policing and social services — the idea that launched the movement — 57% of all respondents endorsed the goal.

In many cities, opponents of Defund the Police note that policing cuts have coincided with dramatic increases in crime — which also happened in cities with police departments that operated under federally court-ordered reform agreements.


Among those cities is Seattle, which began 2021 with a police budget nearly 20% smaller than last year’s after eliminating police positions and transferring some services from the Seattle Police Department to other city departments.