In Minneapolis, the plan is to dismantle much of the existing, bias-plagued department. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has gone to the bottom line: A planned $150 million spending cut — 8% of the LAPD’s 2020 budget.

From the streets filled with protesters to city halls nationwide, and to the halls of Congress, definitions of “defund” differ. The idea has momentum, with governments responding and revising almost by the moment. However defund ultimately is defined — different ways in different places, no doubt — if the demand leads toward meaningful reform, it will do some good.

When I asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference this week what “defunding” means to her, she first mentioned underinvestment in “black and brown Chicago.” Then turning to the narrower question of the Chicago Police Department itself, Lightfoot focused on leveraging the 16-month-old, court-monitored police consent decree.

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David Greising

David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative...