By Guy Page
A reader of Vermont Daily Chronicle today emailed a link to a June 2020 column on the Ben & Jerry’s website defining and supporting defunding the police. The opinion of our reader – an outspoken conservative activist from Underhill – was characteristically blunt.
“Never buy another tub of Ben and Jerry’s,” she said. “I knew they were foolish, but not this bad. Law and Order helped to make America great, and will help to keep it so.”
The City of Burlington City Council has attempted to defund police, resulting in reduced manpower. Violent crime reportedly is up. Last weekend, there were (at least) two violent firearms incidents, resulting in at least one injury. Also, in the early hours of Sunday, May 15, a lone police officer broke up one fight in City Hall Park, and then separated two women attacking each other with knives while surrounded by a crowd. The incident occurred a block away from the St. Paul St. location of the original Ben & Jerry’s store.
Most of the June 2020 column is printed verbatim below.
Defund the Police and Invest in Our Communities
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers, we’ve been hearing calls in the streets to “defund the police.” For Juneteenth 2020, we thought we’d take a look at the “defund” movement and explain why it offers the best opportunity in generations to completely transform our model of policing and create stronger, safer communities where Black Americans and people of color can finally experience and celebrate true freedom.
What “Defund the Police” Means
“Defund the police” means that we stop spending our tax dollars on so many of the discredited, dangerous, and racist parts of policing and instead invest that money in community-driven solutions that foster real health, peacekeeping, and safety. So, rather than endlessly growing police budgets, loading up on manpower, surveillance, armor, and weapons of war, we’d increase funding for things that people really need, like:
- Affordable housing
- Job training
- Mental-health treatment and counseling
- Substance-use treatment and counseling
- Parks and recreation
- Community centers and libraries
The “defund” movement acknowledges that police are not appropriate or effective responders to homelessness, mental illness, addiction, school discipline, or any number of issues and activities that aren’t criminal and pose no danger to anyone. In fact, relying on the police to “solve” those problems only escalates interactions, resulting in unnecessary conflict. It criminalizes behavior that would be better handled by a professional and compassionate social safety system.
Enough is enough. We can’t arrest our way out of the challenges that face our communities. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make us safer—but investing in our communities does.