YES, THEY ARE DEFUNDING THE POLICE. After House Democrats lost seats they expected to win in November’s elections, many in the party searched for someone to blame. They soon settled on — you’ll be shocked — their Republican opponents. GOP candidates had falsely and unfairly accused Democrats of wanting to defund the police, they said. “Republicans hung around Democrats’ necks that we are all socialist or communist and we all wanted to defund the police,” Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democratic candidate who lost his bid for re-election in Southern California. told the New York Times. “In my opinion, we as a party did a less than adequate job in refuting that narrative.”
Here is the problem. There are a lot of Democrats, in California and elsewhere, who are in fact working at this very moment to defund the police. In a significant number of places, the Republican attack was so potent because it was true.
Fast forward to December 25, when the left-wing magazine Salon published an article with this very long headline: “Did we defund the police? No, but ‘but changes are happening’ even after protests die down. Despite intense criticism coming from across the political spectrum, new city budgets show the protests work.”
The article described the local governments that “are moving ahead with re-allocating police funds to community programs as activists refuse to let up.” (Anti-police activists, aware that the pledge to “defund the police” is unpopular with many voters, now refer to defunding as “re-allocating” money away from the police.) “I feel like we’re winning,” Mary Hooks, a leader in the movement to defund the police, told Salon. That is clear in the numbers: Los Angeles has cut its police budget by $150 million. Seattle has cut $69 million. San Francisco has cut $60 million over the next two years. Denver has cut $50 million. All the cuts are between ten and 20 percent of the cities’ police budgets.
Other cities — Houston, Oakland, Portland, Maine — are downsizing the reach of police, for example, ending their presence in schools. And Atlanta, which has not cut its police budget, has instead slashed its corrections budget as the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has vowed to close the city jail. Money that was intended to go to the jail is “supposed to go into turning that space into a community wellness center,” said Mary Hooks.
Other anti-police crusaders express disappointment that Milwaukee, New York City. and Austin, Texas have not followed through on their leaders’ vows to defund the police. The city council in Milwaukee passed a radical de-funding measure, but with crime rising and citizens crying out for more protection, ended up voting to give emergency funding to police to get through the end of the year. The city’s police officers, meanwhile, are leaving the force at a record rate.
Milwaukee’s experience points to the biggest problem for the anti-police activists: Crime. Murders and some other serious crimes are on the increase in the cities that are now defunding their police departments. When a serious crime occurs, of course citizens want police to respond. They don’t want to call the community wellness center.
But that will not stop the anti-police activists. They have been working for years to undermine and defund law enforcement — the movement was under way well before the protests and riots of 2020 — and they intend to keep at it. Now, they will have a friendlier administration in Washington as President Joe Biden and Democrats take over the executive branch. “This is not going to happen overnight,” Alex Vitale, author of the 2017 book The End of Policing, told Salon. “Everyone on the ground doing this work in in this for the long haul.”