Bowman, a new member of the progressive “Squad,” made those comments on CNN when anchor Dana Bash had asked him whether “defund the police” was “bad messaging.”
“Defund the police does not mean abolish the police,” Bowman said. “It means a dramatic reduction in the number of police in our poor communities and particularly our poor Black and Brown communities.”
“Historically, when our communities have needed jobs, they didn’t bring us jobs, they brought us police and they created a system of mass incarceration,” he added. “And we live in a country where if you’re Black or Brown, you’re more likely to be killed by police, and more likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to not afford bail.”
“So, we’re focusing on this slogan – ‘defund the police’ – but where are the resources to bring jobs into our communities? Where are the resources to fully fund our public schools? Where are the resources to deal with the issue of housing and food insecurity? We’re not talking about any of that. We’re worried about a slogan.”
He went on to claim that only 5% of policing addressed violent crimes and that the other 95% “can be handled by other agencies, mental health institutions, domestic violence professionals, etc…”
A New York Times analysis from June found that roughly 4% of policing in three jurisdictions was devoted to handling violent crime. The rest of the time was spent on responding to noncriminal calls, “traffic,” “other crime,” property crime, “proactive” and “medical or other.”
Bowman’s comments came amid a spike in violent crime in the U.S., and after some Democrats expressed opposition to the slogan, which became popular in the wake of George Floyd’s death this summer.
On Tuesday, news surfaced that former President Barack Obama had cautioned against using “snappy” slogans like “defund the police.”
“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done,” he said.
Gallup reported in August that 61% of Black Americans favored police continuing to spend the same amount of time as they already were in their communities. By contrast, 20% wanted them to spend more time and 19% said they preferred less. However, polling has reportedly tended to show Black Americans supporting the “defund the police” movement.