A Statement from Members of the UMB IPV Collaborative on the Call for Defunding Police
June 11, 2020
Members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Intimate Partner Violence Collaborative (UMB IPV Collaborative) stand with Black Lives Matter and other activist groups’ calls to defund police. Our support of this movement calls for decreasing resources allocated to police and reinvesting resources in community social services and supports. This stance is informed by our positions as clinicians, lawyers, social workers, and healthcare professionals who work on behalf of people subjected to intimate partner and sexual violence.
We write this statement of support to challenge opposition to reimagining the emphasis on and role of police in our society, particularly opposition rooted in the fear that reducing the scope and funding of police will harm victims and survivors of intimate partner violence. Too often, intimate partner violence has been used to prevent meaningful change to the criminal legal system. Based on our collective knowledge and experiences as practitioners and researchers serving victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, we support the call to defund police because both research and our professional experiences have demonstrated that the criminal legal system does not effectively respond to or deter intimate partner violence. In fact, the criminal legal system spurs conditions that can increase intimate partner violence, particularly for Black communities that are disproportionately policed due to deep-rooted, institutionalized racism.
In the United States, the criminal legal system represents the primary pathway for victims and survivors of intimate partner violence to hold people who use violence accountable as well as seek safety from continued abuse. However, the expansion of the criminal legal system to include criminalization of intimate partner violence has not lowered rates of or deterred such violence, particularly for Black communities and other communities of color. This expansion of the criminal legal system for addressing intimate partner violence has instead exacerbated conditions that likely increase intimate partner violence, particularly for Black communities and other communities of color.
The criminal legal system can spur intimate partner violence in a variety of ways, including: 1) perpetuating poverty and economic stress through under- and un-employment of people involved in the criminal legal system; 2) exacerbating conditions of instability in vulnerable communities by removing vital, care-giving community members; and 3) increasing community trauma caused by police violence and incarceration of community members.
Furthermore, Black communities and other communities of color are disproportionately targeted and criminalized by the criminal legal system, which can and does lead to at least some victims/survivors choosing not to engage with the police or the broader criminal legal system for fear of being harmed or fear of their loved ones being harmed or killed in the course of police intervention. The criminal legal system has also targeted victims of violence, particularly Black victims of violence, both through arrest and incarceration of victims acting to protect themselves from violence and by exposing them to unwarranted intervention by the child welfare system for “failure to protect” their children from violence.
Baltimore ranks first in the country in spending per capita on police for cities our size. Even with the reforms instituted after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, policing in Baltimore continues to be a fraught enterprise. Not surprisingly, many victims of violence continue to avoid police and prosecutors in Baltimore, leaving them with few other available resources. The Baltimore City Council has the opportunity to rectify this imbalance by defunding the police. We support proposals to move funding within the city’s budget from police to community services and supports.
Members of the UMB IPV Collaborative anticipate that by reallocating funds away from police, reinvesting such resources in community services and supports better equipped to meet the needs of Black communities and other communities of color, and investing directly in Black communities and in community-based models of safety and support, we will see a decrease in intimate partner violence and the establishment of more effective, victim-/survivor-centered responses to intimate partner violence. For that reason, we, members of the UMB IPV Collaborative, stand with Black Lives Matter in their elevation of this critical issue to national and international attention.
Ametisse Gover-Chamlou, BA
Laurie Graham, PhD, MSW
Leigh GoodMark, JD
Veronica Njie-Carr, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FWACN
Laura Ting, PhD, MS
Julia Caplan, LCSW-C
Quince Hopkins, JD, LLM, SJD
Michele Beaulieu, LCSW-C
Rick Barth, PhD, MSW