Defunding is the buzzword that currently dominates the online sphere, but what does it mean? Explore the idea with four intriguing publications.

UPDATE (JUNE 24, 2020): Except for ‘Who do you serve? Who do you protect?’ the e-books are not available for free anymore. However, we will keep this article alive since the publications deal with an important issue.

What started as an ambitious hashtag on social media has quickly become a topic of serious conversation in both the academy and the press.

Ignited by the series of murders of black individuals by police officers and subsequent police brutality during the protests across the USA, the movement is gaining momentum in American society. However, the concept of defunding the police still has only peripheral support, partially due to the misinterpretation of the notion.

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Contrary to popular belief, the catchy phrase doesn’t seek to “get rid of the cops” and “eliminate the 911” but rather relocate a sizable amount of cities’ budgets to invest in local communities, particularly in the marginalized ones.

The step would reimagine what public safety looks like, opening the door to self-controlled societies. However, as Philip McHarris, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Yale University, says, the “concept exists on a spectrum.” Since the movement is driven by the people, the voices within the dissent range from radical to more conservative.

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To learn more about the consequences and implications of various scenarios and learn more about the origins of the campaign, publishing houses Verso Books and Haymarket Books have made several books dealing with the topic available for free. All the titles listed below come as e-books and you can download them without any purchase.

The End of Policing

“The problem is not overpolicing, it is policing itself,” says author Alex S. Vitale, the professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project. The book addresses the core of the current problem: the nature of modern policing itself, which, according to Vitale, has become a tool of social control. The title, whose findings are backed up by extensive research from across the world, shows the expansion of police authority, which is “inconsistent with community empowerment and social justice.”

Policing the Planet

Combining firsthand accounts from activists with the research of scholars and reflections from artists, Policing the Planet traces the global spread of the broken-windows policing strategy, first established in New York City under Police Commissioner William Bratton. The compilation of essays and contributions, penned by #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, poet MartΓ­n Espada, or scholars Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Robin D. G. Kelley, was picked for the Reading List of America by New York Public Library in 2017.

Police: A Field Guide

The volume created by David Correia and Tyler Wall is a vocabulary of policing that “redefines the very way we understand law enforcement.” An illustrated handbook on the methods, mythologies, and history that animate today’s police, it serves as a “survival manual for encounters with cops and police logic.” Short chapters focus on a single term, such as the beat or order, and present a guide that reinvents and demystifies the language of policing in order to better prepare activists – and anyone with an open mind – on police brutality.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

What is the reality of policing in the US? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness? These are the questions explored in this collection of reports and essays that deal with police violence against marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police.

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