Friday, April 22, 2022

Is It Time We Consider Defunding the Police?

Following the deaths (or murders if you'd like) of Floyd George and  Breonna Taylor, there were massive protests all around the country, especially in Minneapolis Minnesota and Louisville Kentucky where the respective killings took place.  There were calls by Antifa, Black Lives Matter (BLM), and others, mostly on the Left, to defund police departments throughout the country.  

About 20 major metropolitan cities answered the call, including New York, Chicago/Cook County, Los Angeles, Portland, Austin, Baltimore, and Milwaukee, to the tune of about $870 million dollars.  

They praised the idea of cutting the already strained budgets of police departments, forcing some officers off the force, reducing patrols, and increasing response times. They claimed that white police officers had a long history of brutality towards minorities, often leading to unnecessary and often violent deaths, as in the case of not just Floyd and Taylor, but also to Eric Garner, Daniel Prude, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown just to name but a few.

They called for local policing by minority led volunteer organizations, albeit with little or no actual authority, as if some sort of public censorship would reduce crime; that public exposure would make any difference to these petty criminals, carjackers, drug dealers, or reduce the number of murders. Some wanted to create a "rate-a-cop" program to weed out bad cops and neighborhood police  review boards 

Proponents called for the hiring of social workers to meet with youths deemed "at risk" of falling into the dead end trap of crime. They demanded more pre- and after-school programs to give these kids a place to go and something to do thanks to single, and often absent, parent homes.  They wanted  to extend these programs year around as well as providing breakfast and lunch during weekends and summer months since these were typically the only regular meals these kids received. 

In Louisville Kentucky, the mayor made the idiotic decision a few years ago to actually hire criminals  to keep the peace and rat on fellow criminals as means of reducing crime. Not unexpectedly, the opposite happened. Crime actually increased as these criminal informants used their new found clout to set up and get rid of their competition, or use their clout as a form of immunity. The ultimate result for residents of Metro Louisville was more carjackings, more robberies, and more murders.

Since COVID took over the news cycle, there hasn't been much said or done about cutting police budgets. Funding of Antifa paid organizers and protestors has dried up. The same can be said of BLM protestors. Meanwhile, a number of police departments overhauled their leadership and introduced mandatory diversity training for their officers (in some cases, this has also included Spanish language classes).

Some police departments have taken steps to hire more minority officers through minority specific recruiting, lowering hiring and academic standards. Where possible, patrols are comprised of a white and racial minority officers, especially in highly diverse neighborhoods.  There are more public service interactions between the community and law enforcement in schools, community centers, and public events to rebuild a sense of trust and cooperation within neighborhoods. But what about the actual defunding of police departments?

According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll from February 2022, 75% of those surveyed opposed defunding the police. The respondents felt that cutting the police budget would result in a increase in crime. 49% said it would result in a "major increase" in violent crime.

In a June 2021 Pew Report, 41% thought that violent crime was an issue. In July 2021, that number had risen to 61%. Data provided by the FBI seemed to agree. It reported that the murder rate in the U.S. had increased by 30% in 2020 . More specific date shows that Democrats now oppose a cut in police funding. In 2020, 41% of Democrats favored a reduction in police funding. By 2021, that number was just 25%.

34% of Democrats said the police funding should actually increased while 40% wanted to keep it at its current level. Compare that to 61% of Republicans and Conservatives wanting to see an increase in the police budgets, with 29% saying by a lot and 33% wanting to maintain current levels. 5% would a reduction in overall funding of law enforcement (within the GOP, 64% white Republicans favored an increase in police funding while 53% of Hispanic Republicans did). 

Minorities comprised of Asians, blacks, and Hispanics also oppose defunding police departments. However, by how much is significant. Hispanic, along with whites, would like to see a greater police presence (46% and 49% respectively) compared to 38% of blacks and 37% of Asians. Still, this represents an increase from 2020.

When it came to age, those 18 to 49, who previously favored a reduction in funding, now supported an increase. Only 23% still wanted to see a cut in police budgets. Adults over 50 strongly favored an increase in police funding. When it came to shifting money from the police to providing more social services, 57% overall opposed the idea. 43% however, supported it according to a March 2021 USA/Ipsos poll.

Going further, the poll indicated that 63% of blacks would like to a portion of the police departments budget go to social programs while just 35% of white agreed.  The same poll also showed that 67% of Democrats backed the idea of redistributing at some portion of the police budgets to social programs while only 16% of Republicans agreed. Meanwhile, 84% of Republicans wanted to make sure police budgets were fully funded. 33% of Democrats wanted to police funding at their present levels.   

In cities like Louisville Kentucky where the shooting of Taylor took place, and throughout much of the country, public opinion is consistent in believing that police officers are essentially "judgment proof". There have been numerous instances of incidents where a police officer was clearly at fault, be it for a traffic accident (including drunk driving, speeding without siren or lights), physical abuse, lying under oath, or a shooting, and faced no repercussions for their actions.

Granted there has to be a level of trust between the judicial system and law enforcement, however, it shouldn't be at the expense of justice. That is to say, the courts shouldn't automatically assume that someone is telling the truth simply because they wear a badge. I've known a number of police officers who've more than "fudged" where the truth was concerned.

It seems that most Americans agree. A survey conducted by the Associated Press---NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicated that 60% of Americans thought that police officers should be penalized for any racially based crime or conduct. Another 60% of respondents said that officers shouldn't be able to hide behind their shields. They felt that law enforcement shouldn't be granted automatic immunity for their actions, as is often the case, and should be held liable in a court of law.

In a unrelated question, the same poll indicated that 75% felt that first time non-violent offenders should be afforded a bit of slack and given a shorter sentence, including community service rather than jail time.   

 So what do we take away from all this? The movement to defund police departments was, first of all, primarily urban. In small and rural communities, the support for law enforcement remained largely unaffected. It should be pointed too that these same communities are also primarily white with small populations of blacks and mostly migratory Hispanic workers.  

However, it was in the middle size and larger towns and cities that the defund movement was the strongest, and then with larger populations of minorities (mainly black). With this, there was also high rates of unemployment and crime, especially in predominately black sections of the town, which likely helped create a sense of fear and frustration among the residents.

The movement itself was largely started with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 (Ferguson is part of the Greater St. Louis metro area). That's when the nation first became aware of the Black Lives Matter through nightly images of the mass protests by a combination of the black residents of Ferguson and those bused in by BLM to artificially inflate the numbers, along with images of looting and arson (the irony that many of the businesses destroyed were owned by Hispanics and Asians wasn't lost on many).   Antifa also soon entered the picture. Despite their name, "Anti-Fascist" or "Antifa", they routinely used tactics reminiscent of Nazi Brownshirts or Mao's "Red Guard".

The strength, in terms of numbers and funding, of both groups seemed to grow exponentially with each subsequent killing of a black individual by police officers, which was almost always portrayed as unjustified by the media (and in some cases justifiably so).  However, it was the 2020 deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis Minnesota and Breonna Taylor in Louisville Kentucky that brought both BLM and Antifa to the forefront of public attention, along with starting the defund movement.

The reaction was largely in response of what was presented by the media as a "out of control" police force. Even among whites there was a growing concern over the increasing militarization of the law enforcement with things like armored personnel carriers, high-tech surveillance, military related equipment and training, leaving them looking like stormtroopers out of "Star Wars".

However, it was this militarization which created a greater sense of a "us vs. them" mentality and help poison the relationship  between the police and residents. It also resulted in a "siege mentality" among officers and making more likely to react in an aggressive manner.   

The original notion of defunding the police was to reduce this type of mentality and redirect funding to support low income and mainly minority neighborhood, as well as to require officers to undertake diversity and sensitivity training. The more radical elements wanted near total defunding with self-policing coupled with an increase in social workers to "council" non-violent offenders, which sounded good in theory but in practice was disastrous for residents. In communities where policing was reduced, crime, especially violent crime, increased, along with carjackings, burglary, and vandalism.

As the polling shows, defunding law enforcement was, in fact, mostly a knee jerk reaction in response to a media manufactured perception of increase in black killings by a "out of control" police departments amid "white racism" running amuck.  In truth, more whites were killed by police officers than minorities.

As the facts of the various cases ultimately revealed, many of the resulting deaths were as justified as they were unavoidable. However, not all were, as in the cases of Timar Rice, George Floyd, Eric Garner, or Daniel Prude.  As for blatant racism, that appeared as a virtual non-existent factor.  Additional data has repeatedly shown that when it came to violent deaths, blacks were likely to be killed by blacks than any other factor.

Based on the polls, it appears that the public wants to maintain current funding of police departments, along with added social programs within minority neighborhoods specially directed toward "at risk" children and teenagers. Officers also need to step back from their "us vs. them" mentality. Perhaps additional sensitivity and diversify training would help, but it must also acknowledge by all sides that racism is not a one way street.  

While the judicial system and law enforcement are required to work together, the courts must temper their willingness to assume that law enforcement does no wrong or that the accused (or the witnesses) aren't just as credible as the police officers irrespective of race, economic class, gender, or any other factor. Police officers must be held to a higher standard and that standard must be enforced.

As for the cities which defunded the police mentioned above, most have restore funding to the police. A few actually increased it with some of the larger cities investing an additional $450 million dollars. Much of the money has gone to hiring and rehiring officers along additional training and equipment. 

I would add that there needs to be a return to an academic understanding of civics early on in school and ending this false sense of perpetual victimization. The youth must also be taught right from wrong, which begins at home, along with a sense of self-worth and respect for others.  

 If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider passing it along to others and don't forget to subscribe. It's free! Lastly please be sure to "like" us on whatever platform you use to read A/O. It helps with the algorithms and keeps our articles in circulation. Thank you!

Louisville Crime

Poll: 75% say 'Defund the Police' caused violent crime wave

Growing share of Americans say they want more spending onpolice in their area

Fewer than 1 in 5 support 'defund the police' movement, USA/Ipsos Poll finds

Americans Don't Want to Defund the Police. Here's What They Want to Do


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