John Oliver explains ‘defund the police’ — and why it doesn’t mean ‘no

In the two weeks since George Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes, many of the people protesting systemic racial injustice and police brutality across the country have called to “defund the police” as a possible solution.

While both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden argued against defunding the police on Monday, some lawmakers and political leaders are considering the controversial measure. Minneapolis City Council members vowed to “dismantle” the local police department on Saturday, in order to “recreate systems that actually keep us safe.” New York City mayor Bill de Blasio pledged on Sunday to cut some money from the NYPD’s $6 billion budget, and redistribute funds to youth services and social services. Details will be hammered out over the next three weeks ahead of the city’s July 1 budget deadline.

But critics such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson have reacted with alarm, saying that cutting police department budgets across the country would mean “thugs are in charge.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that “the President is appalled by the ‘defund the police’ movement.” And his presumptive Democratic rival for the Oval Office also “does not believe that police should be defunded,” according to a statement released by Biden’s communications director. The president also tweeted against the idea on Monday, adding, “The Radical Left Democrats have gone crazy!”

And there appears to be a lot of confusion over what purpose taking funds away from local law enforcement agencies serves. “Defund the police. No more cops. That’s what they’re fighting for,” Carlson also said on his show recently.

So John Oliver devoted his entire Sunday night episode of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO
to talking about the police, noting that the disturbing images of police brutality, and incidents of peaceful protests devolving into violence, are just “the tip of a very large iceberg.”

He continued, “It didn’t start this week, or with this president, and always disproportionately falls on black communities.” And Oliver addressed three key questions: How things got to this point; what the obstacles to reform have been; and what to do going forward.

“All the while, as we were continuing to boost funding for police and give them more authority, we were simultaneously slashing spending on key social services.”

He outlined law enforcement’s history of enforcing laws “explicitly designed to subjugate black people,” beginning with capturing escaped slaves, as well as…

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