Up next for police defunding advocates: Win local elections

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A person holds up a sign advocating for defunding the police as people gather to mark Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, 2020, in St. Louis. Juneteenth is the holiday celebrating the day in 1865 that enslaved black people in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been freed, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ATLANTA – Amid Americans’ national reckoning on racism, a coalition of progressive groups is forming a political action committee to back local candidates who want to redirect money away from traditional police departments into other social services.

An outgrowth of the “Defund the Police” movement, the WFP Justice Fund is led by the Working Families Party and the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project. The PAC has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and plans immediately to begin accepting contributions and vetting candidates to support.

Organizers described the effort to The Associated Press on Monday as a counter to the political power of police unions and a way to continue educating voters about what the “defund” push means. The result, they said, would be a shift in local government budgets and public safety systems around the country.

“We’ve abided by an era where ‘law and order’ was this stamp of approval, where law enforcement endorsements somehow signified legitimacy,” said Maurice Mitchell, executive director of the Working Families Party, which backs democratic socialists and progressive candidates at all levels of government.

“So we are creating a counterbalance that can create the space for elected officials to do the work that’s being demanded from the streets,” Mitchell continued, adding that the goal is “divestment from things that aren’t working and investment in things that are working.”

The PAC's launch came the same day that President Donald Trump met at the White House with law enforcement officers and people who have had positive interactions with them. It's part of Trump's effort to pitch himself as a law-and-order politician while warning of a “radical left” push toward lawlessness.

But the PAC's organizers point to public polling since George Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died May 25 under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

In June, a survey by the AP and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found a dramatic shift in the nation’s opinions on policing and race, with considerably more Americans than five years ago believing that police brutality is a serious problem and that too often it unequally targets Black Americans and then goes undisciplined. Notable among those clear majorities was a palpable shift among white Americans.