By Dayzsha Lino, Editorial Intern
“Defund the police” is a rallying cry that has seemed to gain notoriety as protests continued across the country, following weeks of civil unrest after the tragic killing of George Floyd.
Organizations such as Black Lives Matter have been demanding that local governments take away large portions of their city’s police budget and reallocate the money to social programs that would benefit the community. The goal is to shift the focus from police intervention in every circumstance to letting counselors and other mental health professionals handle situations that even police say they are not well-equipped to handle.
An example of this call for change is a statement from the Black Lives Matter Long Beach website. It reads:
“We call for the end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and our lives to be taken.
“We call for a national defunding of police. We demand investment in our communities and the resources to ensure Black people not only survive, but thrive. If you’re with us, add your name to the petition right now and help us spread the word.”
Floyd was a black man who was killed by a police officer who suffocated him with his knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds on Memorial Day. The killing of Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her bedroom by Louisville Metro Police Department officers on March 13, 2020 during a “no-knock” investigation, has also been a huge motivator in calls to shift funding from police.
The black community, in general, has been fed up with police encounters resulting in the deaths of black individuals over the years, and the recent deaths of Floyd and Taylor are very reminiscent of similar victims such as Freddy Grey, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown, whose deaths within the past decade have sparked the conversation on police misconduct against African-Americans in the United States.
Data from Mapping Police Violence shows that out of the 1,000 people who were shot and killed by police between 2013 and 2019, about a third of those individuals were black, and about 17% of them were unarmed.
A graph from BBC News also shows that while African-Americans only make up a little over 13% of the U.S. population, they made up for 23.4% of police shooting fatalities in 2019.
Some cities have taken action by either defunding or disbanding police departments. In Minneapolis, the city council announced it is working toward disbanding the city’s entire police department. In Los Angeles, City Council President Nury Martinez recently proposed cutting $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department Budget.
There have been no official moves by the Long Beach City Council to defund the police in Long Beach, despite pressure from many residents to do so. The only measurable action by the council was its vote on June 16 to ban the use of a carotid artery restraint tactic that Long Beach Police Department officers had previously been permitted to use to detain suspects.
Some residents do not believe this is enough to solve the problem of racial injustice in Long Beach.
“We demand justice for all black people in Long Beach, that will bring up all marginalized people in Long Beach,” said one resident for public comment. “This has gone far too long. It needs to end. The people are in the streets. Listen to the people in the streets!”
Other allies in the community, such as The Center Long Beach, have shown their support for defunding the police. Porter Gilberg, who is the executive director of the LGBTQ center, said that his organization was one of over 200 LGBTQ organizations across the country who have called for transformational change in policing. He believes that this moment in time serves as an opportunity to look at how much money is being allocated to the police, and see how much of that budget could go into services that are better equipped to handle situations such as community outreach and mental health distress while reducing over-policing in the community.
“When we think about the LGBTQ community’s role, we are a community that is over-policed,” Gilberg said. “We are a community that experiences disproportionate rates of arrests and incarceration. We experience higher rates of unemployment, so a lot of our community is often forced into underground economies. And when there are resources that reduce that over-policing, reduce that over-incarceration and actually create opportunities for everyone to thrive, LGBTQ+ community members and members of the community that are not LGBTQ+ will have safer, healthier communities.”
Other residents of Long Beach have been demonstrating their frustration through a number of different protests across the community. On May 31, thousands of residents marched along Downtown Long Beach, before being met with widespread looting and Long Beach police officers firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. City officials later called on the National Guard to help stop the rioting and looting.
On June 14, more than a hundred people gathered for a car caravan stretching from North to Central Long Beach and ended in a protest outside of the Long Beach Police Officers Association Headquarters.
Random Lengths News reached out to the Long Beach Police Association and the Long Beach City Council, but leaders of the Long Beach POA and councilmembers were unable to respond by press time.