Group behind local protests explains what they mean by ‘defund the police’

MADISON, Wis. – A group playing a large role in the protests following George Floyd’s death in Madison is asking society to rethink policing.

The idea of defunding the police has been a rally cry in recent days, with the term “Defund Police” painted Monday night in front of the City County building. The groups Freedom Inc. and Urban Triage have been part of an effort to explain to the community what that would look like.

“This is really an invitation to reimagine safety,” said M Adams, co-executive director of Freedom, Inc.

Adams knows many are coming out to protest the deaths of George Floyd and other black people at the hands of police, but there’s another message the group wants made clear.

“What we are working toward is not only to have unity in what we’re against, but unity on what we are for,” she said.

For Adams and others part of the movement she’s taking part in, that means getting rid of the police department as we know it and redirecting that money to areas including housing, healthcare, transportation, education, youth programs and various support services.

For example, she said a first step would be removing police officers from schools and diverting money spent on that to alternatives such as tutors or culturally-specific programming.

“Defunding is about recognizing the system of policing, the system of mass incarceration, as being something that’s punishment-based and punitive-based, and instead saying, ‘How can we invest in the things that meet the needs of people?’” Adams said.

As an abuse survivor herself, Adams said that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be accountability for those who violate standards in a new community system, but the focus shifts to rehabilitation and preventing crimes in the first place.

“I think a lot of folks are energized now,” she said. “Many who have not thought to question the function of police are now asking those questions.”

Acknowledging there will be those who dismiss this push as radically different, Adams said it will take a big shift to bring big change.

“We are proposing something different than the normal business day, because under those normal business days, George Floyd was murdered,” she said.

News 3 Now has reached out to all of the Madison Common Council members, so far hearing from members who support the concept and those who don’t, with the hope of learning more on their perspectives this week.