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The meaning behind "Defund the Police"

Group demands changes to public safety funding
Posted at 11:20 PM, Sep 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 13:21:41-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Protests are expected to continue this weekend around the country and in Louisville, following this week's announcement that officers will not be charged in the death of Breonna Taylor. She has become one symbol of the movement for social justice reform, along with calls to defund the police.

In Indianapolis, The Indiana Racial Justice Alliance is putting action and a deeper meaning behind the phrase "Defund the Police."

"You can say a chant or a slogan in the streets or during protests and then when decision makers, power brokers get a hold of it, they may just be moving money around," said Mat Davis, Co-chair of the Indiana Racial Justice Alliance.

Davis said the phrase "defund the police" must be accompanied by a demand on how that money should be re-invested in the community.

"And not just insert new thing other than the police, it's insert what we need. Defund law enforcement and then put that back into something that actually prevents crime," Davis said.

Davis said throughout the past year, organizations like IRJA have been listening and talking with residents of the city, often during protests. He said the people he's talked to have made it clear that it's time to evolve public safety, down to changing who responds to 9-1-1 calls.

"Eleanor Northington was a (43)-year-old black woman who was killed. She was having a mental health crisis at a church. She was hog tied and choked out. Why were the police even called for that? They needed a mental health professional to walk into that church and help that woman out," Davis said.

In a statement, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett's office said: "Mayor Hogsett agrees that investment in mental health and community programming is critical to addressing the root causes of crime and creating systemic change. That’s why one of his first major policy initiatives in 2016 was the creation of a criminal justice reform task force that helped to launch a holistic reform effort intended to, in part, address the substance abuse and mental health challenges that are factors for too many residents in the criminal justice system. This work led to the creation of the Assessment and Intervention Center, a part of the future Community Justice Campus, which aims to bring together city agencies and community service providers in one facility to divert those suffering from mental illness and addiction away from the criminal justice system and towards treatment options. This also led to the launch of the MCAT program, an initiative that pairs a mental health professional with a crisis-intervention-trained law enforcement officer to intervene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, and the pilot of a mental health screening tool designed to help officers identify those suffering from mental illness and divert those individuals from the criminal justice system."

"We are still here to defund law enforcement, in a way that makes sense, and trust me there are tons of ways that make sense," Davis said.

The Indiana Racial Justice Alliance will be meeting outside City Market at 4:00 p.m Saturday.While no large protests are known to be planned this weekend, IMPD has said it will be monitoring any possible demonstrations to allow the right to protest, while protecting people and property.