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Date: Mar. 2021
From: Fordham Urban Law Journal(Vol. 48, Issue 3)
Publisher: Fordham Urban Law Journal
Document Type: Article
Length: 20,090 words
Lexile Measure: 2080L

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Introduction: Understanding Calls to Defund the Police 626 I. Policing in the United States: Systemic Racism Racial Trauma, and the Need to Rebuild Democracy 631 A. U.S. Policing Is Systemically Racist 632 i. The Racist Roots of Policing 632 ii. Police Funding Is Systemically Racist 633 B. Policing and Racial Trauma 636 i. Background Cultural Trauma 638 ii. Cultural Trauma from the Routine 639 C. Rebuilding Democracy 641 II. An Unreasonableness View of Policing 645 A. The Traditional Fourth Amendment Reasonable Force Standard 645 B. The Failures of the Reasonableness Standard 649 i. Breonna Taylor 650 ii. Michael Brown 656 iii. Amadou Diallo 659 iv. Aaron Campbell 659 III. Policing as Punishment 662 A. The Eighth Amendment and Human Dignity 662 B. Why the Eighth Amendment Should Apply to Policing 664 IV. Reforming Policing Is Reforming Punishment 667 A. Retribution and Quantitative Proportionality 670 B. Retribution, the Eighth Amendment, and Qualitative Proportionality 671 C. Deterrence and Meaningfulness 673 V. Sentencing Reform Efforts 674 A. Judicial Discretion and Sentencing 674 B. Defunding: A Different View of Reform 677 Conclusion: Antiracist Sentencing Reform Includes Defunding the Police 679


During the summer of 2020, the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others created a movement that unearthed a reality that Black people in the United States have always been aware of: systemic racism, in the form of police brutality, is alive and well. While the blatant brutality of George Floyd's murder at the hands of police is the flame, (1) the spark was ignited long ago. One need only review the record of recent years--the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Antwon Rose, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and countless other souls have led to this particular season of widespread protests and organized demands for change. (2) This is a historical moment of tremendous civil unrest, deemed by many as a revived Civil Rights Movement. (3)

While various reform-seeking legislative measures have been in process for the past several years, this particular moment is different and calls for a different response. Protests and demonstrations erupted on stages large and small, drawing attention to social justice issues. (4) From schools to small businesses to large corporations, institutions across the country issued statements pledging themselves and their finances to antiracism work. (5) As the focus turns from necessary protest to tangible progress, what remains unanswered is how best to proceed. Professor Ibram X. Kendi described antiracism as "a radical choice in the face of this history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness." (6) One such "radical choice" is defunding the police.

Police defunding can follow many models, but two have emerged most prominently among activists and scholars. Under one, jurisdictions completely disband entire police departments, offering leaders the opportunity to begin afresh and draft community-led public safety prototypes that do not include police at all. (7) Under the other, police departments' coffers are divested, to varying degrees, and funds are reallocated to...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A659648076