America's 'most dangerous city' defunded its police department 7 years ago. It's been a stunning success.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story featured a photo from Camden, South Carolina. It has since been corrected.

One of the most popular calls to action by protesters in America's streets after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer is to "defund the police."

The city of Minneapolis took the call to heart and a veto-proof supermajority of city council members have approved a plan to defund and dismantle the city's police department.

"We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe," Council President Lisa Bender told CNN.


Now people are calling for city governments across the nation to do the same, but what does that actually mean? Will cities be devoid of law enforcement altogether, leaving residents to fend for themselves?

Is it a call for privatized security forces, who aren't deputized by the state to use violence?

via QB Factory / Twitter

Camden, New Jersey defunded its police department in 2012, and it's a wonderful example of how blowing up a corrupt organization can revitalize a community.

In 2012, Camden was the most dangerous city in the United States with over 170 open-air drug markets in just nine-square miles.

The city also had a big problem with police corruption and with officers routinely planting drugs on its citizens.

According to the ACLU, in 2013, the City of Camden agreed to pay $3.5 million in damages to 88 people whose convictions were overturned because of widespread corruption in the Camden Police Department.

"This prolonged campaign to plant evidence on innocent people was a true stain on Camden Police and represents one of the most serious forms of police corruption," said Alexander Shalom, policy counsel for the ACLU-NJ.

"Unfortunately, the systems that are designed to prevent corruption and protect the public eroded and allowed rogue officers to operate unabated for years," the statement continued.

As crime escalated in the city, the town wanted to add more officers to the streets, but the average unionized officer cost the city $182,168, on average, with benefits. So the city disbanded the police department and created a new a county community force instead.

The city fired its entire police force, rehiring 100 officers at an average cost of $99,605 per officer.

WSMV / Twitter

This massive windfall allowed the city to reallocate funds to other community-building initiatives. The local economy received a boost from new educational and workplace programs and the city's blighted and abandoned properties were demolished.

The new community-oriented police force now focused on the de-escalation of violence instead of sending officers out with an us-against-them, warrior-like mentality. This approach to policing would have prevented the death of George Floyd.

"Defunding the police" isn't a simple, blanket statement. It can mean different things depending on who you ask and what a particular community is advocating for.

The most common approach to "defunding" is reducing the police budget to pay for social programs. For example, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently committed to reversing a planned budget increase for the LAPD and instead will use those proposed funds for other community programs. There has also been a push to move law enforcement away from situations better suited to mental health professionals or community officers, as in the case with most situations involving homeless populations.

The second most common approach to "defunding" is dismantling then rebuilding the entire department with a new mandate and staff, ala Camden. Critics have said this would be most difficult to achieve in major cities like New York City, where eliminating teams that investigate homicides, sexual assault and spousal abuse would need to be replaced by organizations that had the ability to use force when necessary in criminal investigations that are often of a violent nature. However, proponents of this approach argue that the very nature of violent confrontations is due in no small part to involving armed police from the beginning.

The third approach is to abolish police departments entirely. Obviously this is the least likely outcome in most major American cities. However, there are examples of smaller areas that have relied on a similar approach.

Ultimately, a leading factor in police reform is more about training and rules. A major reason for Floyd's death was that fellow officers stood by, doing nothing, while Derek Chauvin kneeled on his throat for nearly nine minutes.

This new approach to law enforcement starts with officers on their first day of employment. On day one, they are asked to knock on doors in the communities they serve to introduce themselves and ask residents how they can help.

"Back then residents of Camden city absolutely feared the police department and members of the department," Louis Cappelli, Camden County freeholder director, told CNN. "They (the residents) wanted that to change."

"We want to make sure residents of the city know these streets are theirs," he said. "They need to claim these streets as their own, not let drug dealers and criminals claim them."

Overall, this new approach to community building and policing has had a tremendously positive impact on the city. Data shows that over the past seven years, violent crimes have dropped 42% in the city, and the crime rate has dropped from 79 per 1,000 to 44 per 1,000.

However, there is still work to do in Camden. It is still still America's 10th most dangerous city and the population has declined by about 10% over the past seven years.

The success of Camden's approach to law enforcement was evident on May 30, when police and citizens marched arm-in-arm with the police to protest the murder of George Floyd.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Welcometoterranova article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

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2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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