Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema opposes proposals to defund police departments, according to her office.
Sinema’s office said she believes police departments should have the option of hiring social workers to help officers respond to situations involving mental or behavioral health problems, and that evidence shows that social workers can help de-escalate such situations, which could help save lives in some cases.
“Kyrsten is focused on getting things done, and is working with colleagues in both parties on proposals including increasing the use of social workers and intervention strategies that keep Arizona families safe,” spokeswoman Hannah Hurley told the Arizona Mirror in an emailed statement.
Before she entered politics and early in her political career at the state legislature, Sinema was a social worker.
“Defund the police” became a rallying cry among the Black Lives Matter movement and others who have been protesting the killing of Black men by police, including George Floyd, who was unarmed. Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes during an arrest in late May.
The slogan means different things to different people. For some, it means shifting funding from police departments to other services, including social workers, whom advocates believe are better equipped to peacefully handle situations involving the mentally ill, the homeless, people with substance abuse problems and others.
Others take the slogan more literally, aiming to dramatically defund or even abolish police departments, with a goal of replacing them with a new model. The Minneapolis City Council this month voted in support of a resolution pledging to abolish the city’s police department and replace it with a “transformative new mode.”
The movement to defund the police has become a political lightning rod since the protests erupted after Floyd’s death, and has forced many Democratic officeholders and candidates to choose between alienating progressives who support the movement and the more moderate Democratic and independent voters who oppose it. Republicans have made the defunding movement a major talking point.
Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally has vigorously opposed the movement, saying in a recent fundraising email that “Democrats’ radical calls to defund the police are dangerous and irresponsible.” Her presumptive Democratic opponent in the November election, Mark Kelly—who, like Sinema, has portrayed himself as a centrist who will work across the aisle—has also opposed the movement, saying police departments need reform, but not defunding.