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Thousands call for defunding police departments. What does that mean?

Several Minneapolis City Council members have announced their intention to disband the police department with no clear plan on what will replace it.

Protesters across the United States are calling to defund police departments. 

What does that actually mean? 

Over the weekend, several Minneapolis City Council members pledged to disband the police department with no clear plan on what will replace it. In Los Angeles, the mayor plans to cut $150 million from the police budget to invest that money instead in communities of color. 

Right now there is no public plan to defund any North Texas police agency but many local leaders are talking about reforms. 

Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.

RELATED: Minneapolis City Council announces intent to disband police department

State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.

“Why can’t we look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities, so people don’t have to be in the streets during a national pandemic?" Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza asked during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.

In Dallas, council member Jaime Resendez says he wants to look closely at the police department's budget and reallocate some funds to help programs, people and communities that may need it more.

“If we prioritize our resources in an equitable manner there will be hopefully less need for a robust law enforcement arm of government,” Resendez said. “If we utilize our resources equitably, put resources in communities with the highest need I think that naturally in the long term that that’s going to reduce crime.”

That could mean investing in community outreach programs, housing and education. 

RELATED: Dallas City Council grills police chief about officers' use of force during local protests

But some confuse the push to defend police departments with completely abolishing the law enforcement agencies. 

“If you disband the police department then who is going to be a police officer? Who is going to respond to these kinds of calls for service?" said Alex Piquero, a criminologist at the University of Texas at Dallas. "Because when someone burglarizes your home you call someone. When someone assaults you, you call someone. So who are you going to call?”

Piquero said moves to dismantle the agencies, like in Minneapolis, don't provide "a lot of clear thought about what you put into place."

“What are we going to do and what is that going to look like? We need to think that through a lot more clearly,” he said.

RELATED: Reform for Dallas Police Department is 'long, long, long overdue,' council members say

Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said he is open to moving money out of the police department's budget as long is it doesn't cost officer jobs. 

“I’m here to unequivocally make a statement that I want to be a part of change, I want to be a part of corrective action and help find answers, but we have got to all sit around a table and come to reasonable consensus," Mata said. 

But, he says, moves to eliminate police could lead to chaos. 

“Because people are still going to get robbed, people are still going to get murdered, and people are still going to have violent acts committed against them. So who is going to protect the citizens?" Mata asked. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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