In the year 2022, the deadliest on record for police-related fatalities, 1,096 lives were taken by officers in the United States according to the Washington Post’s Police Shootings Database. However, this figure does not include cases such as Eric Garner’s 2014 killing or George Floyd’s 2020 death due to asphyxiation at the hands of police. This means that the real death toll from police violence is much higher than reported.
This violence against communities of color has been brought into focus in recent years, especially with the growth of viral videos depicting law enforcement brutality. Despite this attention and public outcry for reform and justice, President Joe Biden proposed budget increases for local departments rather than defunding them as advocated by activists.
Therefore, it is clear that more needs to be done than simply providing more money to departments without any measures in place to reduce police violence and make sure that taxpayer money is used responsibly. It is essential to fundamentally re-envision public safety by taking actionable steps such as increasing civilian oversight and curbing the militarization of local police forces. A recent study analyzing hundreds of police departments over nearly three decades concluded that increased budget grants are associated with greater levels of use-of-force and fatal encounters with law enforcement officials—especially towards communities of color and other marginalized populations.
It is up to citizens, policymakers, and activists alike to push for an overhaul of our current system in order to ensure that no one else falls victim to unchecked police violence. We must demand transparency within departments and hold them accountable for their actions if we are truly going to create a safer world where individuals can live in peace without fear of being victims of injustice or discrimination due to who they are or where they come from. Many believe that defunding law enforcement departments are necessary—however, it must first be coupled with meaningful efforts toward creating an equitable justice system that puts people over profits and prioritizes community safety above all else.