John Oliver Breaks Down What It Means to Defund the Police

John Oliver explained to Jimmy Fallon and viewers why "meaningful change" will take "sustained, significant effort" in the fight against racism and to reformed policing.

By Samantha Schnurr Jun 09, 2020 1:58 PMTags
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If you want to see change in policing, John Oliver has broken down what needs to be done. 

While appearing remotely on The Tonight Show on Monday, the Last Week Tonight host discussed the topic of defunding the police, a cause that has gained momentum following the death of George Floyd and amid the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Oliver offered context on the topic to host Jimmy Fallon, recalling how he initially learned about "defund the police" through an episode of Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas. "That was the first time I started realizing what defunding the police actually meant," he recalled. "It wasn't a punitive thing to do. It was reallocating resources—and that would look different wherever you lived."

He continued, "It was about serving whatever community the police were in better and to trying to decouple safety from policing."

The host noted, in researching it more recently, "you realize that things are so bad, you need solutions that are gonna match it...The problem, of course, is if the police don't realize the scale of the problem, they're not going to accept the scale of the solution."

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However, while referencing the Minneapolis City Council's pledge to dismantle the city's police department and create a new system, Oliver wanted to make clear "defunding the police" does not mean "the purge is upon us."

As he said, "It is not about 'no police'—it's about what the police do."

In response to Fallon's comment that "this feels different though, doesn't it?" Oliver noted, "The key thing is for the outrage to now be matched with action because this machine has been very, very deliberately built to resist change, to kind of absorb outrage and not fundamentally change, so it is going to take sustained, significant effort to get the reforms that are going to be required here for anything to meaningfully change because we've just been here before. We've been at points in American history where things have 'felt different this time' before."

"The problem is things have not changed enough," he told Fallon. "I really, really hope this is the time that people can manifest meaningful change. I hope that's true."

"Watching what happened in Minneapolis is incredible," Oliver said. "That's a massive step for them to take and hopefully will inspire other people that big changes are possible."

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