There’s a growing call to defund the police. Here’s what it means

Some are calling for reallocating funds, others want police departments disbanded

TOPSHOT - A Police officer charges forward as people protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020. - Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities after five consecutive nights of protests over racism and police brutality that boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country. The death Monday of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited this latest wave of outrage in the US over law enforcement's repeated use of lethal force against African Americans -- this one like others before captured on cellphone video. (Photo by Samuel Corum / AFP) (Photo by SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A Police officer charges forward as people protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. on May 31, 2020. - Thousands of National Guard troops patrolled major US cities after five consecutive nights of protests over racism and police brutality that boiled over into arson and looting, sending shock waves through the country. The death Monday of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis ignited this latest wave of outrage in the US over law enforcement's repeated use of lethal force against African Americans -- this one like others before captured on cellphone video. (Photo by Samuel Corum / AFP) (Photo by SAMUEL CORUM/AFP via Getty Images) (Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty Images)

There's a growing group of dissenters who believe Americans can survive without law enforcement as we know it. And Americans, those dissenters believe, may even be better off without it.

The solution to police brutality and racial inequalities in policing is simple, supporters say: Just defund police.

It's as straightforward as it sounds: Instead of funding a police department, a sizable chunk of a city's budget is invested in communities, especially marginalized ones where much of the policing occurs.

The concept's been a murmur for years, particularly following the protests against police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, though it seemed improbable in 2014.

But it's becoming a shout. With the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and nationwide protests demanding reform, at least one city is considering dissolving its police force altogether.

Does defunding the police mean disbanding the police?

That depends on who you ask, said Philip McHarris, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Yale University and lead research and policy associate at the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability.

Some supporters of divestment want to reallocate some, but not all, funds away from police departments to social services. Some want to strip all police funding and dissolve departments.