Defund the Police? What that Means, and What it Doesn’t

Brooklyn College

Alex S. Vitale is Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. His academic writings on policing have appeared in Policing and Society, Police Practice and Research, Mobilization, and Contemporary Sociology, and his essays have been published in The New York Times, Washington PostThe Guardian, The NationVice NewsFortune, and USA Today. Professor Vitale has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, “Democracy Now!” and “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” and is the author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics and The End of Policing.


Last year’s protests over the police killings of George Floyd refocused the nation’s attention on the problem of abusive policing and its connection to larger issues of racial justice. The protesters’ demands raise several questions: Can the police be reformed? Can defunding the police be a viable alternative to police reform? What would it mean for high crime communities that have had to rely on police as the only resource for addressing crime and disorder? Alex Vitale will answer these questions based on 30 years of experience in both studying policing and advising community-based movements for police reform. He’ll discuss the historical role of police and their relationship to contemporary policing, and he’ll look at the current movement to defund the police and the specific policy proposals it supports, including initiatives to reduce gun violence, fix schools, and deal with substance abuse and mental health crises.



Recommended Readings:

“How Much Do We Need the Police?” by Alex S. Vitale

“How I Became a Police Abolitionist,” by Derecka Purnell

“Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police,” by Miriame Kaba

“A New World is Possible: Defund Police and Fund Black Lives,” by Kayla Reed and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson




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Dean Dibias

Defund the Police? What it means, what it doesn't.

In the final analysis, I agree with Professor Vitale conclusion. However, given the sensitivity of this topic, I would have liked to see data from both “sides” of the topic! Recent upticks in violence have moved efforts to create a more just policing environment backwards and without proof from both sides justifying what is needed I don’t believe we will ever more forward.

2 years ago
barbara ann.fields

Honest Assessment

Policing started, I believe as slave catchers, and we have not moved far from that mentality. There seems to be a new form of slavery but this one provides jobs to more overseers. People who are made to feel better than those they “serve”. Keep them in their ” place” and you can enjoy some of the “benefits” of the “Master”. I don’t believe that your ideas will work without a major change in the mentality of America and the correct teaching of this country’s history.
Thank you for your prevention and it’s honest assessment of the situation.

1 year ago
kevin fox

Excellent / convincing humanistic proposal

While the lecturer’s responses to questions in the final Q & A section were “chock full” of “opinion qualifiers” such as “what I propose is” and “it seems to me that…” the scripted lecture was nearly or possibly totally devoid of such wording (thru which I found myself gritting my teeth a bit) but which I forgive as the lecture would have been tedious had it been filled with over a dozen such “opinion qualifiers”, and likely would have been several hours in length had it included more supporting evidence. As a family physician I was “raised” on the scientific method which I believe is hard to apply to the field of sociology – but was pleased to hear of several sociological experiments that supported the lecturers opinion (e.g. wrt two neighborhoods with similar demographics, one with police body cam use lacking in the other and subsequent outcomes).

12 months ago
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