Professor Akwasi Owusu Bempah: Defunding the police: what does it mean?

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently spoke to CTV News about what it means to defund the police as a way to end violent policing amongst Black communities. Professor Owusu-Bempah explained that defunding the police does not necessarily mean eliminating the police force. Instead, it means to reallocate and redistribute some of their funds to important agencies such as mental health services, child welfare services, and education. Professor Owusu-Bempah says that defunding the police should start by calibrating the roles, responsibilities, and tasks of the police force as well as their associated costs.

Professor Owusu-Bempah frequently provides insightful commentary to public and governmental agencies, community organizations, and media outlets regarding topics of race, policing, and social justice. He is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the UT Mississauga (UTM) campus. His research focuses on the intersection of race, policing, and social justice.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below. The full story is available on the CTV News website here.

What defunding the police could look like in Canada’s largest city

June 10, 2020

By Brooklyn Neustaeter

In Toronto, where almost a quarter of residents’ property taxes go just to funding the police, two city councillors on Monday put forward a motion to cut the city’s police budget by 10 per cent and shift it to “much-needed community supports.”

Thousands have signed petitions in other parts of the country, including Vancouver, Regina and Montreal, for similar reallocations of police funds.

However, the concept of defunding the police doesn’t necessarily mean abolishing police forces. As University of Toronto Mississauga sociology professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah explains, defunding the police would mean redistributing some of their funding elsewhere.

“[It’s] a reallocation or a reassignment of certain tasks and functions that we recognize that the police aren’t performing very well, that there are negative outcomes to their involvement in those activities such as increased risk for the use of violence and potential for criminalization,” Owusu-Bempah told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

So what would defunding the police actually look like in Canada’s largest city?

NEW SERVICE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CRISES

Mental health is an essential piece of the call for defunding since many police-involved deaths in Canada have involved mental health and substance abuse issues.

Owusu-Bempah said redirected police funding could go to boosting supports for mental health and creating a new type of emergency service used in times of mental health crises.

“A large part of the problem is for individuals who are suffering mental health crises, and for those around them, the police are often the quickest point of contact or seemingly the most sensible resource to call,” Owusu-Bempah said.

Read the full article…