Dr. Phil schooled one of his guests Friday in a debate about whether it would be possible to defund the police and remove them from society.
The episode, titled "Defunding the Police: A Failure or a Fallacy?," included a variety of perspectives on the role that law enforcement should play. Writer and podcaster Mychal Denzel Smith took a stance so controversial on policing, it provoked a heated reaction from the host himself.
"When I say, ‘Oh I don’t believe that there's a need for police,' what I'm saying is that there has been so little investment in creating the conditions under which police would not be necessary," Smith claimed.
"People are the creations of the society in which they live in," Smith said. "If you are a society that has such massive inequality, and you are a society that is based on racial and gendered hierarchies, and you are a society that deprives people of the resources that they need to live - talking about housing, clean water, food, all of these things that are part of an equitable society, you’re talking about people that will do desperate things in order to survive."
Smith then added, "You’re not solving anything by arresting those people. You’re not solving anything by shooting and killing those people."
Dr. Phil agreed with Smith about societal issues, but took issue with the idea of solving them by removing police.
"I agree with you one hundred percent on society’s failures about how that person became a criminal, my point is that we also live in the here and now, and if someone invades my home and has my wife held hostage in the bedroom tonight I don’t give two [bleeped out expletive] about where they came from tonight," Dr. Phil said. "What I care about is a solution tonight."
Dr. Phil went on to say, "That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to solve the problem so my grandchildren don’t get held hostage in their bedrooms 20 years from now, but when you say we don’t need police because of developmental failures, that doesn’t solve the problems that are occurring tonight, tomorrow night, the next night, those things have to be dealt with."
Smith blamed this thought process on fear.
"I hear you, that is the fear that continues to drive us toward more policing," he said.
Dr. Phil hammered his point, "No, that is the reality in which we live."
He later added, "What I’m describing is something that is happening and we have to have guardrails, we have to have someone to turn to, we have to have someone on the end of 9-1-1."
In a September 2020 piece for The Atlantic, Smith wrote, "'Defund the police' is an abolitionist call, part of a set of ideas to reduce the power of police in the short term, and to eliminate police and policing in the long term."
The Atlantic itself offered a summary of his ideology when it wrote in an Instagram post, "Smith argues that the purpose of policing is to arrest and kill—not to seek justice or solve the problems hurting marginalized communities most, like poverty, joblessness, mental illness, or the housing crisis."