December 5, 2023
New Report Shows 67% of Black Americans Support Divestment from Police Departments, Investing in Policing Alternatives
New data from The Movement for Black Lives and GenForward Research “Perspectives on Community Safety from Black America” report also suggests that language plays a significant role in support for alternative public safety solutions
NATIONAL – Following nearly a decade of dedicated and impactful movement work, a new survey released today by The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) and GenForward at the University of Chicago finds consistent and robust support for alternatives to policing and incarceration among Black communities in the United States.
Sixty-seven percent of Black Americans support reallocating part of police budgets toward investments in health care, education, and housing, and other areas, while 55% support divestment from police departments and allocating entire police budgets toward such investments, according to the data from the survey. The data also suggests that Black Americans have a strong desire to reimagine public safety, especially through new initiatives that would increase funding for community resources and solutions that emphasize prevention, addressing root causes of violence, and support for those formerly incarcerated.
The “Perspectives on Community Safety from Black America” report analyzes data from a comprehensive survey of Black Americans on experiences with policing and perspectives on alternatives to policing and incarceration. M4BL and GenForward surveyed a nationally representative sample of Black people in the United States, with oversamples that enable analysis of perspectives across geographic regions, age, gender, and partisanship.
“With systemic racism and police violence deeply embedded in our existing systems, we sought to understand how Black people of different backgrounds are thinking about community safety, and how their experiences with policing and incarceration inform their perspectives,” said M. Adams and Celeste Faison, co-National Directors for the Movement for Black Lives. “The ‘Perspectives on Community Safety from Black America’ report illustrates what we have long known – Black people in America are calling for divestment from carceral systems and investment in policing alternatives. We are encouraged by the strong support for alternatives as we continue pushing for effective public safety solutions that truly reflect the needs and experiences of our communities. Now is the time to advance alternatives our people want and implement them into policies that will create safer environments for us all.”
The report provides important insights into the diverse perspectives of Black people when it comes to policing. Nearly three-quarters of Black people view police killings as a “serious” or “very serious” problem, and recognize it as a systemic problem. Half of respondents expressed that they always or sometimes fear contacting police in crisis and emergency situations, and yet, 55% said they would “always” or “almost always” call the police if they needed help. The contrasting findings highlight a painful reality for Black communities: a fear of contacting police, who are meant to serve and protect without bias, alongside an understanding that there are few alternatives to turn to when in need.
“The findings allow us to begin to understand the nuanced and complex perspectives Black people hold about the subjects of public safety and policing,” said Dr. Cathy Cohen, Principal Investigator and Founder of GenForward Research, and the David and Mary Winton Green Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. “This data also provides a rare opportunity for Black people to speak for themselves, collectively, telling their truth about policing in their communities and their desires for new, often community-based, methods of producing public safety.”
According to the data in the report, the language used to describe policing alternatives also matters when measuring Black Americans’ support for these measures. For example, 33% of respondents expressed support for defunding the police, and 15% expressed support for abolishing the police, but when asked about supporting or opposing divesting from police departments and putting part of police budgets toward healthcare, education, and housing, support among respondents increased to 67%.
When asked about specific policing alternatives that emphasize community safety rather than general calls for divestment and investment, support among Black Americans for such possibilities was overwhelming. Eighty-six percent of Black Americans expressed support for creating a new agency of first responders specializing in de-escalating violence and providing mental health support, while 78% expressed support for city officials investing in public safety measures that do not rely on incarceration.
“The data is clear – we need public safety solutions that are rooted in prevention and mental health, rather than increased incarceration and policing. Traditional policing methods can never deliver the kind of safety our people deeply desire; only a shift in public resources toward community-based initiatives can begin to address underlying issues of poverty, racism, mental health, and education, ” said Dr. Amara Enyia, Policy and Research Director for the Movement for Black Lives. “The data presents an opportunity for lawmakers to also advance effective policies that center the needs and perspectives of Black communities, starting with the People’s Response Act and the Vision for Black Lives.”
For more information on the “Perspectives on Community Safety from Black America” report, or to schedule interviews with The Movement for Black Lives and GenForward Research, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Movement for Black Lives is a national network of more than 150 leaders and organizations creating a broad political home for Black people to learn, organize and take action. M4BL includes activists, organizers, academics, lawyers, educators, health workers, artists and more, all unified in a radical vision for Black liberation and working for equity, justice and healing.
The GenForward Survey at the University of Chicago is the first of its kind—a nationally representative survey of over 3,000 people that amplifies the voices of young adults by oversampling African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinx Americans 40 and under. GenForward pays special attention to how race, ethnicity, and systems of marginalization shape how young adults experience and think about the world.