By Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor
As a Jewish community, it is deeply ingrained within our culture to go out of our way to help others, both in and out of our own community. In light of the recent events that have transpired over the past month, with police brutality skyrocketing and lives being taken by the hands of those who swore an oath to protect us, it is our job as a community to recognize that there is a problem and that action must be taken.
Throughout this past month, a phrase has been tossed around, both on social and mainstream media: “Defund the Police.” What does this really mean? One of the most common misconceptions about this phrase is that many people think it means “eradicating the police” altogether. That is not what this phrase means. It means allocating funds from, for example, the New York Police Department (NYPD), and giving it towards community organizations that help further the education of lower income communities. As of right now, the police department in New York City alone has funding of $6,000,000,000, whereas homeless services and sanitation have below 2 billion dollars in funding (Ricciulli). Youth programs, elder care, and libraries rank in the bottom half of NYC funding where they are at or below 760 million dollars. So not only is the NYPD gaining 4 billion dollars more than homeless services, it also receives billions of dollars more funding than any other public organization in the city.
The NYPD uses much of their funding towards police misconduct lawsuits. In 2019, New York City spent 175.9 million dollars in civil judgment and claims related to police-related lawsuits. That is not to mention the 4 million dollars in settlements also spent in that same year (Carrega). 299.8 million dollars of that money alone could have bought: 1 million N95 face masks, hired 75,000 city youth for summer jobs, fed 1.2 million new yorkers every day for a year, hired 208 school nurses for a year, and hired 275 new teachers for a year.
Defunding the police does not mean eliminating all police funding. Defunding the police means police will not be overfunded as they are right now. We need to defund the police because police should focus on crimes and criminals. We should defund the police because the police are not social workers, medical professionals, or education specialists and should not be funded like they are. Defunding the police emphasizes reassessing our values, investing in the community, investing in our people.
The reality is that the criminal justice system is overfunded. That, combined with their constant abuse of power, gives reason to say that their funding should be cut, and positive changes should be made to our justice system.
As a Jewish community, we look towards ways to not only better ourselves as Jews, but to also better our communities — non-Jewish and Jewish alike. One of the most prominent ways our community can take action is by educating ourselves on racial inequality and systemic injustice in our past and present society. By learning about other people, their history, and their struggle, we can better understand why these actions take place and we can become more empathetic towards their communities.