Defunding police is about investing in community, says Detroit Justice Center attorney

With use of force by Detroit Police officers increasing, activists and community members are looking for other solutions to reducing crime.

Detroit Justice Center Managing Attorney Nancy A. Parker discusses a call for the U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate the Detroit Police Department.

Last week, the Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability asked the U.S. Department of Justice to examine why use of force rose dramatically during 2020 and stayed at the same level in 2021.

Nancy A. Parker is the managing attorney for the Detroit Justice Center, which, along with groups like the ACLU of Michigan, is a part of the coalition.

She says the message of “Defund the Police” is about taking resources away from the prison industrial complex and putting money toward social services that directly affect people and their neighborhoods.

“Let us reimagine what we could do with that money,” Parker says. “Divest from this police department, and invest in community. Invest in schools, and education and health care. Invest in employment. Invest in infrastructure.”

Listen: Divesting in police could support services like better mass transit, Nancy A. Parker says.


Nancy A. Parker of the Detroit Justice Center

On Detroit Police Department policies of getting guns off the street, Parker says a study by Neighborhood Defender Service did a study that showed an uptick in carrying concealed weapons charges during the pandemic, but a majority of the people charged were not committing a crime — they were in possession of a weapon.

“What DPD loves to do is a flashy show so they can show you all the arrests that they made, all the charges that have been lodged, and how many guns they took off the street,” Parker says. “What they won’t tell you was that was a college person with a weapon that was just not concealed correctly, but they had every legal right to have that gun. They didn’t do anything to reduce crime or to keep anyone safe. They literally have now just saddled someone who was trying to make a living and trying to work and try to go to school with a felony.”

Parker says she doesn’t have confidence that Detroit Police Chief James White will be open to — and accepting of — the results of a federal investigation.

“Well, you’re speaking to an abolitionist. And so I put no faith or hope in law enforcement. They’re part of a system that is intended to operate the way it’s intending, which is to subjugate Black and brown people and other vulnerable communities. I hope that only that pressure can come to bear. And maybe we will see change, but the only way that we get changed is that the people — the community — continuing to come to the streets and yell their demands of what they want.”

Parker adds, “Like Malcolm X said, I will work with anyone who’s about the liberation of Black people. I don’t care who you are. So if our end goal is the same, I will work with you and hope that we get there. Do I have my hope in chief James White? No, I sadly, I can’t say that I do. But there are those who believe that he will do the right thing. And let them be right and let me be wrong.”

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.