Police veteran Bill Bratton on Tuesday described the “defund police” movement that’s become a catchphrase of the anti-racism movement roiling U.S. cities as a “catchy hashtag” driving public policy, but lacking a consistent definition.
Bratton, who served as police commissioner for New York, Los Angeles and Boston, told Yahoo Finance that “you could talk to 10 different people and 10 people have 10 different interpretations of it.”
He added that the embrace of the phrase “immediately started to rattle a lot of people, including a lot of our congressional leaders, a lot of our governors, our president, and police, because it was misunderstood.”
According to Bratton, there are four differing themes for what the movement suggests — and it depends on who is using the phrase, and who is interpreting it. To some, the idea represents a conscious effort to acknowledge and address a need to reform police practices, and reorganize and redefine police responsibilities.
Others, however, see the movement as the reallocation of police department resources — something that Bratton said occurs annually for departments, including New York. Resource reallocation considers whether to transfer police responsibilities, and their corresponding funds, to alternate agencies, and vice versa.
Still others, Bratton said, have a more radical interpretation that calls for abolition of police, such as the multi city block takeover by protestors in Seattle known as “CHAZ.”
And finally, are those who see “defunding” as a call to dismantle and rebuild entire police forces from the ground, up, such the Minneapolis City Council members announced following the police-involved killing of George Floyd.
“So it's going to be a very confusing period of time for a couple years until we finally figure out what we want to do,” Bratton said.
A major problem in maintaining consistency between the standards and practices of police departments across the U.S. is a lack of national standards, Bratton suggested. The result of such decentralization is differences in law enforcement training, standards and practices in each state and locality.
“The problem in our country is with 18,000 police departments, you have 18,000 different sets of responsibilities based on a community's desire of what they want with the police,” Bratton said. “And that has been, and continues to be, and will be, a problem going forward.”
Alexis Keenan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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