‘Police defunding’ might not make sense in a UK context, but we still need nuance

I recently wrote an opinion piece about Keir Starmer’s comments on ‘police defunding’. Its arguments have been met with considerable hostile reaction on social media. In particular, some readers have commented that my criticism of Starmer’s position is hypocritical given that The Canary has previously attacked the Conservative government for cuts in police spending and praised Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal to increase police numbers by 10,000.

I appreciate constructive feedback from readers and recognise that this article had a blindspot insofar as it did not make a distinction between the very different nature of police spending in the US and the UK. Whereas police forces in the US are often highly militarised and overfunded in order to purchase weapons and other military-style paraphernalia, in the UK the police force is even now still largely unarmed. In a UK context, therefore, ‘police reform’ is a more accurate term.

In short, the article lacked nuance. However, so did Starmer’s comments. Although I agree that the literal objective of defunding the police may not be applicable to the UK, Starmer’s position still demonstrated a lack of understanding about what motivates people in the US calling for ‘police defunding’ and how these ideas might apply in a UK context.

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