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Jamaal Bowman defends defunding the police in poor communities

A Democratic congressman representing parts of New York City's wealthiest suburbs has defended defunding the police in poor communities, amid a recent crime surge in the city. 

Rep-elect Jamaal Bowman, who won New York's 16th Congressional District seat, weighed in on the 'defund the police movement' in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Thursday. 

Bowman, whose district covers parts of Westchester County, slammed critics' for focusing on the phrase rather than the cause, which he says calls for less law enforcement in poor areas plagued by a 'system of mass incarceration' 

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Rep-elect Jamaal Bowman, who won the 16th Congressional District seat, weighed in on 'defund the police movement' in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Thursday

All four members of The Squad, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib fired back at President Obama after he criticized the 'defund the police' movement

'Defund the police does not mean abolish the police,' Bowman said. 'It means a dramatic reduction in the number of police in our poor communities and particularly our poor black and brown communities.  

'We live in a country where if you're black or brown, you're more likely to be killed by police, and more likely to be incarcerated, and more likely to not afford bail.

'So, we're focusing on this slogan – "defund the police" – but where are the resources to bring jobs into our communities? Where are the resources to fully fund our public schools? 

'Where are the resources to deal with the issue of housing and food insecurity? We're not talking about any of that. We're worried about a slogan,' he added. 

Bowman also argued that only five per cent of policing was actually focused on violent crime. 

He suggested the remaining 95 per cent 'can be handled by other agencies, mental health institutions, domestic violence professionals, etc.' 

'So we've been doing policing all wrong for decades. In some cities 40 per cent of the budget goes towards policing and police are terrorizing black and brown communities the evidence is clear across the country. 

The comments made by Bowman, a former school principal and political novice who has never held public office before, come amid a surge in crime in New York City where officials this summer voted to cut $1billion from the NYPD's budget

The congressman represents New York 16th Congressional district which covers the northern Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County - one of the city's wealthiest suburbs

'So we have to do something different and not allow Republicans to flip a talking point on its head and make us respond to it. This is about re-imagining our country and building back better in a way that uplifts black communities and not leave them oppressed.' 

The comments made by Bowman, a former school principal and political novice who has never held public office before, come amid a surge in crime in New York City where officials this summer voted to cut $1billion from the NYPD's budget.  

Bowman's district covers some crime-ridden areas such as the Bronx, as well as the southern half of Westchester County - one of the city's wealthiest suburbs.

The police reform movement has been viewed as controversial by some who believe defunding the police will only encourage lawlessness.

The expression was adopted by BLM activists this summer following the death of George Floyd, who died under the knee of a white Minneapolis cop in May, as well as other black Americans including Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, who were killed by law enforcement.  

Former President Barack Obama earlier this week drew criticism from progressives after criticizing the police reform movement during an interview on Peter Hamby's Snapchat show Good Luck America.

Obama told the host that 'snappy' slogans like 'defund the police' could alienate people and potentially undermine the cause. 

Obama weighed in on the police reform movement during an interview on Peter Hamby's Snapchat show Good Luck America that aired Wednesday morning

AOC did not mention the president in her tweets but argued that the phrase was what helped bring national attention to America's issue with police brutality

'You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done,' Obama said.

'The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?'

The remarks drew backlash from several progressive Democrats who support the movement including 'The Squad' members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib as well as Rep-elect Cori Bush. 

AOC argued that the saying is what helped bring national attention to America's issue with police brutality. 

'The thing that critics of activists don't get is that they tried playing the "polite language" policy game and all it did was make them easier to ignore. It wasn't until they made folks uncomfortable that there was traction to do ANYTHING even if it wasn't their full demands,' she said in a tweet.  

Bowman, who toppled 16-term U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel in New York's Democratic primary earlier this year, was endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. 

Bowman grew up in public housing in New York City. He was a teacher and school counselor for several years before becoming the founding principal of a Bronx middle school, the Cornerstone Academy for Social Action. 

The former president, who discussed the Black Lives Matter movement in his new book A Promised Land, went on to explain that the black community is looking for 'good and fair policing'

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