Sen. Kamala Harris: 'We Have to Reimagine...Public Safety in America'

By Susan Jones | June 9, 2020 | 6:43am EDT

( - Asked what the phrase "defund police" means to her, Sen. Kamala Harris told "All In" with Chris Hayes on Monday that more police doesn't mean more safety:

So, Chris, we have to reimagine safety and public safety in America. You know, the status quo has been to determine and create policy around the idea that more police equals more safety. And that's just wrong.

You know what creates greater safety? Funding our public schools, so that, currently, two-thirds of our public school teachers don't have to come out of their own back pocket to pay for school supplies.

What creates safety? Investing in the economic opportunities of communities, creating jobs. What creates safe and healthy communities? Making sure that all people have access to health care, mental health care, and that it is within their reach, meaning it is affordable.

These are the things that create safe communities.

Harris said "many cities" spend one-third of their budgets on policing, but she said the question must be asked: "Is that the smartest and best way to actually achieve safety?"

"Through healthy communities, we have safe communities," Harris continued:

And I also have to point something else out, Chris. When you go to middle and upper-middle-class suburban communities, you don't see the patrol cars sitting out on the corner and patrolling the streets like you do in other neighborhoods. You don't see the kind of police presence.

But you know what you do see? You see well-funded schools. What you do see is families who have the ability to get through the end of the month and not worry about how they're going to put food on the table. What you do see are access to capital and access to public health and to health care.

So, we do need to reimagine how we, as a society, are going to, in a smart way, achieve public safety. We don't want police officers to be dealing with the homeless issue. We don't want police officers to be dealing with substance abuse and mental health. No.

We should be putting those resources into our public health systems. We should be looking at our budgets and asking, are we getting the best return on investment as taxpayers, much less what is morally right and what is right in terms of actually having safe communities that thrive?

And, also, I'll mention -- and part of what we have to do here is also look at the militarization of police departments and the kind of money that is going to that, and we need to demilitarize police departments.

So there is a lot in this conversation. But at its core, one of the issues that I think we should all agree on is that it is old thinking, it is outdated and it is actually wrong and backward to think that more police officers will create more safety.

Harris urged greater investment of taxpayer dollars "in our teachers" and "in our public health system. Let's invest in the potential of communities," she said.

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