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Should we defund the police?

After the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, widespread calls for reform and defunding law enforcement joined the chorus of criticism and anti-racist protests across the United States. The phrase "Defund the Police" started to show up on signs and on social media, but those three words can mean vastly different things depending on who you ask. Advocates for defunding the police say that law enforcement agencies around the country are rooted in racist ideals, lack accountability, and are often called on for situations better handled by other professionals. Others say that more funding is needed to reform police departments and to train officers to work with communities, instead of simply enforcing laws. Should we defund the police?


What Would Dismantling Minneapolis' Police Department Look Like?

Additional resources to think about

US House passes 'George Floyd' police reform bill
Democrats in the US House of Representatives have passed a sweeping police reform bill. However, it has little potential to become law as a result of partisan gridlock.

There's little evidence showing which police reforms work
Professor Robin Engel, from the University of Cincinnati, discusses the lack of research about police reforms or their effectiveness.

'Defund The Police' Requires Rethinking Black Communities' Relationship with the Chicago Police Department
Though Black Chicagoans want police brutality to stop, they have varying ideas of the ways to achieve safety in their community.

'We will still do our job': Local police agree with some aspects of 'defund the police' movement
Local police discuss various options on the spectrum between defunding police departments, installing new community-oriented safety solutions, and police reform.

How Americans Feel About 'Defunding The Police'
Polls about defunding the police show that there are varying degrees of support depending significantly on how the issue is presented.

Poll: Voters oppose 'Defund the Police' but back major reforms
While more than 60% of Americans agree that police departments need major reform, voters remain skeptical of the “Defund the Police” movement.

Do Americans support defunding the police? It depends how you ask the question. 
75% of Americans agree that racism is a significant problem. However, there has been confusion about the term “defunding the police” and on how to address racism in policing.

Should We Raise the Standard for Police Use of Force?
In this America From Scratch video, Toussaint talks with law enforcement and scholars to unpack the complicated and evocative issue of police reform.

History of Policing in America
This video from NPR's Throughline podcast takes a deep look at the history of policing in America.

Evolution of Law Enforcement
Dr. Bainbridge takes us through the origin and evolution of policing and the arguments for reforms, defunding, and abolition.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Should we defund the police?

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