Rod K. Brunson, the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. professor of public life in the school of criminology and criminal justice and the department of political science at Northeastern University, published an op-ed in The Washington Post in June 2020.
By the time he was 18, Jay had already been shot twice. And he’d learned a lesson about how to keep himself safe in his high-crime New York neighborhood: He was always armed.
“We carry everywhere, everywhere. I carry to school, I carry to my girl’s crib, my mom’s crib,” he told researchers in 2017 for a study I led about attitudes toward police among young black men at high risk for gun violence. Jay (a pseudonym we gave him to protect his identity) had little faith that the police would ever bring his assailants to justice — or that they could protect him from future attacks. “I just [know] where [my enemies] live and . . . the gang, I know that they be over there. . . . I gotta carry it in bad places.”
As the protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of officers in Minneapolis have continued, fervent calls to “defund the police” — or even abolish departments altogether — have quickly risen to the top of some reformers’ wish lists. This push seems aimed at addressing the dangers of over-policing: not just obvious abuses like Floyd’s death but also heavy-handed law enforcement responses in communities of color to minor offenses, such as loitering, drinking in public or panhandling.