Now Is the Time to Defund Chicago’s Largest Gang
To use the words of the Chicago Police Department, “a gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, or criminal activity.” “Murdered by police” is one of the leading killers of young Black men in America; it has become clear that police are a public health crisis that demands action from our city’s leadership. The historical injustices of the CPD can no longer be treated as the actions of a few bad individuals: The problem is the function of the police department as a whole. Our criminal justice system was not designed to prevent crime, which it fails to do, but rather to oppress minority communities for labor and profit under the guise of public safety. After over a century of racist policing practices targeting Chicago’s Brown and Black communities through unlawful arrests, beatings, and murders, it is time to defund the gang known as CPD.
CPD’s $1.7 billion 2020 budget marks its eighth consecutive budget increase. That’s $1.7 billion, 37% of Chicago’s 2020 Corporate Fund, for an organization that uses excessive force ten times more often on a black suspect than a white one. The funds were approved by the city council less than a month after the Chicago Teachers Union strike, during which teachers had to fight for staffing of nurses, librarians, and social workers in our schools.
Is this how our city’s citizens want their tax dollars spent? Systemic housing, education, employment, and healthcare discrimination has oppressed millions of Chicagoans for generations. Yet, Chicago continues to militarize its police force as if decades of research hasn’t proven the failures of the “tough on crime” mindset. Instead of dressing police in riot gear for a peaceful protest, investing in needed public services could have astonishingly positive impacts on many Chicago neighborhoods. Public health and safety has not been shown to improve through mass arrests for non-violent crimes or increased police presence, but rather through access to fresh foods, fair housing practices, mental health services, clean air, community health services, and quality public education.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent claim that people are begging for more police support is deaf to protests and cries for action seen throughout the city. The voice of the people must shout louder than the mayor’s police propaganda. Chicago must follow the example of the Minneapolis City Council, which is moving forward with a veto-proof majority to abolish their police department. The police state has failed in America; now is the time to defund CPD. Until then, we cannot stop applying pressure; we must keep protesting, disrupting, voting, and demanding accountability from our elected officials.