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In this plan:


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that budgets are moral documents. They reveal the priorities and values of a home, of a community, and of a nation. Right now, we have a fundamental math problem when it comes to policing and mass incarceration. What does that mean?

The United States spends a staggering $200 billion per year on policing and mass incarceration. That’s more than any country in the history of the world. It’s not even close. And we get out, what we put in. The United States arrests, jails, and incarcerates more people than any country in the world. We often say that 2.3 million people are in America’s jails and prisons, but that’s just on any given day. Over the course of a year, over 10 million Americans are jailed and millions more are placed on probation or parole.

What we have now come to learn, is that in most American cities, like Los Angeles, the LAPD takes up a staggering 53% of the city’s entire general fund. It’s outrageous, but it’s not rare. It’s the norm, but this has not always been the case. Policing and mass incarceration should be more like 5% of a city’s budget and the remaining 95% should be spent on infrastructure, education, healthcare, jobs, housing, the environment, business startups, and so much more.

The end of policing and mass incarceration as we know it must begin with defunding police and investing in communities. Period. 







In recent years, there has been an increasing police presence in our nation’s schools.  According to a report by the ACLU, an astounding 14 million children attend schools that have police officers on campus, but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker.  Although professional standards require at least one counselor and one social worker for every 250 students and one nurse and psychologist, for every 750, the ACLU found 90 percent of students are in schools that fail to meet these requirements.  

Although many proponents of putting “school resource officers” (SROs)  in schools argue that doing so protects school safety, research does not support this claim.  SROs do not deter school shootings.  The key to violence prevention, research suggests, is having trusted adults in the building who other children believe they can approach with information.  Even if they were inclined to try, many SROs have little experience establishing these types of relationships with children. In fact, a full quarter of all law enforcement officers in schools surveyed by Education Week stated they had no experience whatsoever with kids before being assigned to their current positions.   

 A recent longitudinal study by researchers at the University of Maryland and Westat also shows that increasing police presence in schools actually increases the likelihood of criminal-like behavior and the likelihood of harsh disciplinary conduct such expulsion or suspension. This domino effect has devastating long-term effects on students’ mental health, achievement, and criminal behavior.  Other research has reached the same conclusion. Unsurprisingly, police presence in schools disproportionately harms students of color and students with disabilities. 

In these times of budget scarcity, where state and local budgets are stretched to the limit and education funding is regularly in peril, schools should no longer devote resources to employing SROs. Over the last twenty years, governments have funneled billions of dollars into putting police officers in schools, while counselor and social worker positions have been eliminated or, at best, remained stagnant. 

It is therefore time to get police officers out of schools and use our money in a way that protects the health and safety of all of our students. School boards should: 

Invest in culturally competent mental health service providers: Students of color, for example, have different lived experiences than white children. It is critical that schools provide culturally competent counselors to help them address any problems they may be having.


While the number of police officers on campus has ballooned over the past fifty years, there are significant questions about whether a campus police force is at all necessary, leads to reduced crime, or offers any protection against school shootings, one of their proponents’ primary justifications.  For example, 95 percent of the caseload of Harvard University’s police department, which has been the subject of numerous allegations of racism and discrimination lawsuits over the past twenty years, involves property crimes, not allegations of violence or cases involving physical harm.  As for school shootings, the evidence also fails to justify an armed police force.  School shootings are exceedingly rare, and when they do occur, they most often end because the shooter stops and not because of an arrest. In addition, officers can always be summoned to campus by a call to 911.  The argument, then, that the remote possibility of a school shooting justifies the existence of an entire armed campus police force, is misleading at best.   

Students, faculty members, advocates, and residents of communities surrounding these campuses have long opposed campus police departments, documenting numerous instances of racial profiling, searches, police violence, arrests and incarceration of primarily students, faculty, and residents of color.  As the once faint chorus of voices protesting these practices grows louder, colleges and universities are under increased pressure to respond.   

At an increasing number of universities across the country, these coalitions are calling on administrations to cut ties with local police or disband campus police departments, saying that policing institutions enact violence upon Black people and threaten students of color.  These advocates likewise contend that police presence on campus brings with it a more insecure environment for students of color.  Monique Dixon, head of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund’s Policing Reform Campaign noted, when armed law enforcement responds to campus disruptions “there is a fear among Black and brown students that they will not survive the interaction with law enforcement. And frankly, that just shouldn’t be a concern among students and their families when they send their children off to school.”  

Most college administrators, however, have resisted calls to eliminate campus police or end relationships with local municipal police forces, instead opting for the familiar middle ground of supporting enhanced training or urging police departments to adopt a “harm reduction” or community policing-type approach. 

Campus advocates, however, including many at historically Black colleges and universities, view these approaches with skepticism, note that it is impossible to eliminate the bias and threat to students of color inherent in the policing system, and favor eliminating these police departments altogether. Instead, they argue, funding that is currently spent on campus policing should be redirected to “community-based alternatives, programs for education, youth and mental health services, and affordable housing.” 

The debates surrounding eliminating or significantly shrinking police presence on campus is particularly pertinent now, as the current pandemic is leading colleges and universities to cut programs, staff and wages to adapt to reduced income and lower budgets.  In light of these strained finances, there is little justification for a continued prioritization of policing on campus and the accompanying bloated budget.    

Therefore, college and universities should: