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Now’s the time for police reform, by Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

6/18/2020, 6 p.m.
As the worldwide demonstrations continue three weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, the question is ...
Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Defunding means transferring resources that now go to police into investments in communities in health care, schools and housing. It reflects the reality that in minority communities, particularly, over-criminalization has made virtually everyone a potential target. Police have gotten involved in areas better left to others, from school discipline, eviction enforcement, addiction and substance abuse.

Police are soldiers in the so-called “war on drugs” when it is fought in poor and minority communities while deferring to public health agencies to address opioid and drug abuse in suburban and exurban neighborhoods. Defunding would include organizing community groups to help intervene to de-escalate tense situations that can lead to violence.

Mayors in Los Angeles and New York have announced plans to transfer some funds from their police budgets to social services. But what’s required is a real commitment, like that of the Minneapolis City Council, to rethink public safety from top to bottom.

Real change won’t be easy. The resistance will be fierce. At the national level, Senate Republicans will no doubt seek to block the reforms that pass the House. President Trump will enlist the police unions to posture as a law-and-order strongman.

The demonstrators must build a political force able not only to defeat those who stand in the way, but to hold those promising change accountable. What is clear is that the abuses won’t stop, the police murders won’t end, until fundamental reforms are made.

The writer is founder and president of the national Rainbow PUSH Coalition.