OHIO — Protests against police brutality now have many calling for the defunding and dismantling of police departments.  But what exactly does that mean, and what would be the ramifications? 

What You Need To Know

  • Defunding and dismantling is primarily about making police reform, which carries different meanings for different communities

  • Cities looking to dismantle police departments may give civilians the ability to police their own communities

  • Defunding may be more of a process of redirecting funds and resources to programs in marginalized communities versus stripping entire police budgets

  • As part of reenvisioning policing, police officers will have to look at their own history and that of policing which traces back to slavery, to maintain economic order

Clashes with police during protests over the death of George Floyd have sparked outrage— so much so that people across the country are demanding police departments be dismantled and defunded.

Retired police chief and Director of Criminal Justice at Cedarville University Patrick Oliver has been a part of law enforcement for nearly 30 years across the state of Ohio and said while policing is a valuable government service, this current call to action is about making major police reform.

“Historically, when police fail to repeatedly protect civil rights, then police reform occurs to the courts or legislative bodies or the executive branch by creating commissions.”
As conversations take place, it is clear that dismantling and defunding of police departments will look different and carry different meaning in different communities. For those that dismantle police departments in any way, Oliver said, it’ll give civilians the ability to police their own communities.

“They'll use civilians instead of sworn officers to conduct investigation and do traffic enforcement, to do internal affairs investigations, to respond to calls for service that are not enforcement actions.”
When it comes to defunding, Oliver believes it may be more of a process of redirecting funds and resources to programs in marginalized communities versus stripping entire police budgets. The redirecting may include pumping more into the the area of mental health and redistributing some current police responsibilities in that area to social workers.
Otterbein University Associate Professor of Sociology and social activist Heidi Ballard believes that change and more needs to be done.

“We need to do a whole overhauling of our programs, educational programs,” she said.

Regardless of what communities decide, Ballard said in order to create further systemic change and reform, “their purpose and their approach must be revision, with the principles of social justice.”

And as part of the revisioning, police officers overall would have to begin looking at their own history and that of policing, which traces back to slavery, to maintain economic order.

“Slave patrols and night watch controls were the first police departments.” “We then have this bifurcation of how policing is done across race and class in this country.”

Ballard believes that when this is done, the layers that have led to racism and injustice can be peeled back.
In the meantime, as many communities grapple with reenvisioning police and public safety, Dr. Oliver doesn’t foresee all cities going through the process of dismantling and defunding.

“It's only going to be in those communities where they feel like the police department is not responsive enough to their needs and wants, or they are continually violating federally protected civil rights. Those are places where they're going to force change if the police department's not making those changes.”

Dr. Oliver said where change is forced, conversations will have to include the community in order for change to occur. 
As talks go on, some here in Ohio, like the City of Cleveland, say they won’t dismantle the police department, but they will consider the possibility of redirecting some funds if they have other philanthropic partners to assist. The Minneapolis City Council is currently considering disbanding their police department, while investing in community-based public safety programs.