John Oliver passionately explains why America should defund the police — and what that actually means

The HBO host discussed why defunding the police doesn't mean what many believe.


John Oliver devoted Sunday’s entire episode of “Last Week Tonight” to the ongoing protests against police brutality, diving into one of the rallying cries of the demonstrations: defund the police.

As the HBO host explained, “defund the police” doesn’t necessarily mean getting rid of all law enforcement. Instead, it’s about refocusing state budgets in order to make police intervention less necessary, he said. In support of this idea, Oliver played a clip of a former Dallas police chief who said that police are often asked to solve problems like drug addiction, mental health, and even stray dogs because funding in other departments has been slashed over the course of decades.


“Defunding the police absolutely doesn’t mean we eliminate all cops and succumb to ‘The Purge,'” Oliver said. “Instead, it’s about moving away from a narrow conception of public safety that relies on policing and punishment and investing in a community’s actual safety net — things like stable housing, mental health services, and community organization.

“The concept is the role of the police can significantly shrink because they’re not responding to the homeless, or to mental health calls, or arresting children in schools, or other situations where the best solution isn’t someone showing up with a gun,” Oliver continued. “This clearly isn’t about individual officers, it’s about a structure built on systemic racism, that this country created intentionally and now needs to dismantle intentionally and replace with one that takes into account the needs of the people it actually serves, and this is going to take sustained pressure and attention over a long period of time from all of us.”


Oliver ended the show by playing a clip of author Kimberly Jones.

“There’s a social contract we all have where if you steal or if I steal there’s an authority who comes in and they fix the situation,” Jones said. “But the person who fixes the situation is killing us. So the social contract is broken!”

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