Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, in a newsletter to supporters today, said she supports defunding and even abolishing the Evanston Police Department.
Fleming said defunding is “urgent and past due.”
She said Evanston residents who call 911 about many quality of life issues are taking actions “rooted in racism and white supremacy.”
She questionned whether police should be called about many such issues, from a homeless person sleeping in the park to a homeowner using a leaf blower..
“Why does having armed officers deal with your intoxicated neighbor make you feel safe?” she asked.
“Defunding is a reasonable and achievable government action,” Fleming added, “I am ready to fill our community with more services while working towards making Evanston a place where we don’t equate safety with guns and arrests, a cti ythat acutally practices radical racial justice.”
At Thursday night’s Equity and Empowerment Committee meeting, Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, while not saying she embraced defunding, said, “We are hearing from people,” adding that she had received “maybe 300 or more emails in the last week about defunding the police department.”
Wynne said she found it interesting that so many of the names on the messages she recognized as friends of her own children — an age group that otherwise “we haven’t heard from very much on Council.”
Quality of life issues and police involvement
In today’s crime report, only one of the eight listed events really needed a uniformed police officer. That one being an assault. The other seven being quality of life issues that require a person more trained in conflict resolution than trained in law enforcement. An investigation of graffitti in a public place does not require a uniformed officer equipped with a hand gun, a taser and a. night stick
I read Ms. Fleming’s statement differently.
I don’t see a call for abolishing the police, except as a long-term philosophical goal, one presuppsoing a very different society. What I see her calling for right now is addressing what DanJoseph mentioned above. Here’s the full statement, with the abolish/defund language in italics:
As an elected official I’m bombarded with requests, suggestions, demands, criticisms and frustrations. I’m expected to be an expert in conflict resolution, finances, engineering, program development, and zoning. I’m asked to both protect the trees and end homelessness; keep the streets clean and lower fees. My job is all-encompassing and if I’m honest, I often cry after meetings out of frustration over the slow pace, lack of urgency, and decisions that often feel out of touch with residents’ reality.
Police abolition is a term I learned some years ago at an educational event. The more “radical” Black women I met, the more they taught me. This learning coincided with the televised images of Black folks being killed by police and a ground swell of frustration that seemed to be building outside of these once “radical” spaces.
Abolishing the police is possible. It’s a process that involves very intentional and systematic thinking, but it’s possible.
Defunding the police is possible.
I would also argue that it’s urgent and past due. Defunding (unlike abolishing which calls for total dismantling of police systems) is the reassignment of city dollars from the Evanston Police Department (EPD) budget to programs, services and supports that address community needs.
A homeless person sleeping in the park?
An “unfamiliar” Black man sitting in a parked car?
A homeowner using a leaf blower?
Boys riding their bikes on the sidewalk?
All of these are situations in which Evanston residents have called the police on our neighbors. Are these situations that needed the response of someone armed with a gun, taser, pepper spray, and a bullet proof vest?
Defunding the police is needed to confront the the overpolicing of Black, brown, and poor folks BUT in Evanston there’s another factor: we must admit that part of the overpolicing is because residents think this is their only option for so-called “safety.”
What some people call 911 for is subjectively considered “unacceptable” or “inconvenient” by the caller but is actually rooted in racism and white supremacy. Sometimes it is because we simply want someone else to deal with our “problem.” What defunding the police calls for is an invitation for everyone to confront our societal problems of inequity, discrimination and violence without perpetuating the same system that was literally created to catch slaves.
I realize that police provide a sense of safety for some people, however, can we only feel safe with armed officers on the street risking their lives? Why does having armed officers deal with your intoxicated neighbors make you feel safe? How does it make your neighbor feel?
Defunding is a reasonable and achievable government action. I stand ready to support defunding EPD. I am ready to fill our community with more services while working towards making Evanston a place where we don’t equate safety with guns and arrests, a city that actually practices radical racial justice.
This year, 2020, has already shown itself to be an unbelievable year. That also means that changes which may have seemed previously unbelievable are now possible. As Lucille Clifton said, “We cannot create what we cannot imagine” and frankly, my elders who served this city before me have been imagining this opportunity for centuries.
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