Politicians and the Public Want a Refund on Defund

The murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May, 2020, motivated the Black Lives Matter movement and set off a summer of protests across the country.

The frustration fueled the Defund the Police campaign.  The decentralized nature of the campaign meant there was never a cohesive strategy.

Some of the proposals made sense. For example, could communities find better ways to deal with drug addiction and mental illness rather than just calling the police?  That is a worthwhile discussion.

However, the most radical activists wanted to take away funding from police departments and redirect the budget to existing and newly created social programs.  In the heat of the moment in summer of 2020, some public policy makers thought it was a good idea.

It wasn’t.  Police quit. Crime rose.  The public, while appalled at the sight of Floyd struggling to breathe while a uniformed officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s throat, grew increasingly nervous about crime in their neighborhoods.

A national survey by Pew Research released last week found that the paradigm has shifted significantly.  More people now say they want more money spent to protect their communities.

“The share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased [emphasis added] now stands at 47 percent, up from 31 percent in June 2020.”  Meanwhile, “support for reducing spending on police has fallen significantly: 15 percent of adults now say spending should be decreased, down from 25 percent in 2020.”

The views vary according to race. Whites and Hispanics are more likely than Blacks or Asians to say that more money should be spent on policing.

The Washington Post reports the rise in crime and a growing antipathy toward the defund effort are having a direct impact on mayoral races in today’s elections. “Mayoral candidates across the country are closing out their campaigns pledging to restore law and order, a major setback for racial justice protesters who only a year ago thought they had permanently reshaped the debate on policing in American cities.”

“From Buffalo to Seattle, Democratic politicians who once championed significant reductions or reallocations of police department budgets are backtracking,” the Post reported.

In Minneapolis, the Star Tribune Newspaper has editorialized against a ballot initiative to defund the police because it “promises to delete the Police Department… from the city charter’s list of required public services.” The proposed replacement is a Department of Public Safety which could have police officers “if necessary.”

Minneapolis is in the midst of a crime wave, so the passage of Question Two seems unlikely.

The public does not want police to mistreat individuals or abuse their power. The outrage expressed by people of all ethnicities over Floyd’s murder demonstrated that fair-minded people know police excess when they see it.

However, those same people also want safe neighborhoods and assurances that when they call the police, a trained and responsible officer in a uniform with a gun will show up.


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