In a new interview, Barack Obama advised activists to stop using the phrase “Defund the police” if they want to “get the changes [they] want done.” The former president appeared on the Snapchat show “Good Luck America” with Peter Hamby on Wednesday morning (Dec. 2), where he claimed that the “snappy slogan” could cost some Democrats’ political support — thus jeopardizing their reform goals.
“If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like ‘Defund the police,’” Obama said. “But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.”
“The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?” he added.
Instead, Obama advised activists to shift the conversation to focus on reform.
“Let’s reform the police department, so that everybody’s being treated fairly. You know, divert young people from getting into crime, and if there was a homeless guy, can we maybe send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy?” he said.
“If you want to get something done in a democracy — in a country as big and diverse as ours — then you’ve got to be able to meet people where they are,” Obama added.
The phrase “Defund the police” sprang from anti-police brutality protests over the summer. After the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and more, many activists urged their city governments to divert police department funds to community-bolstering initiatives, specifically programs that would benefit marginalized and minority communities.
Obama’s comments about the phrase were made during the first segment of his three-part interview, the latter two portions of which will air tomorrow (Dec. 3) and Friday (Dec. 4). The former POTUS also promoted his new book, A Promised Land, which already sold 1.7 million copies within its first week.