PALM SPRINGS — In June 2020, the “defund the police” slogan gained widespread popularity during the George Floyd protests. Black Lives Matter, Movement for Black Lives, and other activists have used the phrase to call for police budget reductions and to delegate certain police responsibilities to other organizations.

“Defund the police” is a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources. Activists who use the phrase may do so with varying intentions; some seek modest reductions, while others argue for full defunding as a step toward the abolition of contemporary police services. Activists that support the defunding of police departments often argue that investing in community programs could provide a better crime deterrent for communities; funds would go toward addressing social issues, like poverty, homelessness, and mental disorders. Police abolitionists call for replacing existing police forces with other systems of public safety, like housing, employment, community health, education, and other programs.

What does all of that mean for Palm Springs, if anything?

The City Council has approved spending $150,000 for a third-party review of the Department’s policies and practices.  Mayor Geoff Kors and Councilmember Grace Garner volunteered to be the liaisons to hire a consultant.

Kors told Uken Report he has had many discussions with Police Chief Bryan Reyes about policing, including since the death of George Floyd.

Councilmember Lisa Middleton and Kors, serving as budget liaisons, spoke with Chief Reyes about bringing in a consultant to work with the Police Chief, City Council, and the community, Kors said.

“The (thought process) was that hiring an expert in police practices and policies would be the best way to look at our spending, current police (policies) and procedures, and provide a way to bring people together, talk about the issues, with a goal of moving forward as a stronger community,” Kors said.

Uken Report asked candidates running in District 4Christy Holstege, Mike McCulloch and Dian Torres — what the slogan “Defund the police” means to each of them. Uken Report also asked each if he/she supports defunding the police.

Holstege did not respond despite being given several opportunities.

Following are responses from McCulloch and Torres.

Uken Report (UR): How do you define what it means to defund the police?

Defund the Police: What Candidates are Saying

Mike McCulloch

McCulloch: defines Defund as “to withdraw funding from”. So defund the police literally means to withdraw funding from their budget. Many cities across the nation have done just that, with predictable negative consequences. A recent Forbes article give these examples:

Austin, Texas, is the latest city to announce a police defunding effort, with the City Council on Thursday voting unanimously to cut $150 million (roughly one third) from the police budget, reinvesting much of that sum in social programs, including food access, violence prevention and abortion access. Austin’s announcement closely follows the sweeping budget change approved by Seattle—a $3.5 million budget cut and the reinvestment of over $17 million—that resulted in the resignation of Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, a 28-year veteran of the department and Seattle’s first Black police leader.

UR: Do you support defunding the PSPD? Why or why not?

McCulloch: I absolutely do NOT support defunding the Palm Springs Police Department. Our police department is part of our community, and enjoys the respect and support of the vast majority of our residents. Further, police provide the most vital of functions for society, allowing for all of our other privileges. It is public safety that produces our fine quality of life in the desert. It is misguided and naive to think that police can be replaced by social services and code enforcement officers. Further those who say “defund the police,” but claim they really mean “reallocate resources” are playing deceitful word games with real world consequences. Defunding would be dangerous for our community and is not a step in the right direction.

And, now from Torres.


Uken Report (UR): How do you define what it means to defund the police?

Torres: Reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police to other departments, agencies or entities.

UR: Do you support defunding the PSPD? Why or why not?

Defund the Police: What Candidates are Saying

Dian Torres

Torres:  I do not support defunding. We need our police. I believe that we need to reprioritize and look at the scope of police responsibilities. I support what the police department has been doing with their deescalating training, but the challenge is larger than that. Our police today are tasked with responding to a vast variety of social issues and crises, from mental illness to homelessness and they need to be  given the resources including training, personnel, and specialized support to handle these tasks daily. We need to work with the police to hear what they need, and we need to work with the community to ensure that programs such as mediation and violence interruption programs are incorporated into community policing. In addition, I believe medical, educational, and other specialists are important resources we need to tap.


Image Sources

  • Mike McCulloch: Facebook
  • Dian Torres: Dian Torres
  • Defund the Police: Shutterstock