November 5, 2021

Defund The Police

“Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department… The ballot question called for a new Department of Public Safety to take ‘a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions’ that would be determined by the mayor and City Council. Supporters argued it was a chance to reimagine what public safety can be and how money gets spent.” AP News

Here’s our prior coverage of defunding the police. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left calls for moving beyond defunding police in favor of reforms to improve police accountability and recruiting.

“The national outpouring of grief and anger after Floyd's death did change the way Americans thought about police. A poll by Pew Research Center taken during the summer of 2020 showed only about a third of respondents believed officers tend to use the ‘right amount’ of force in tricky situations, down 10 points from an earlier survey…

“Just about a third of Americans believed police treat racial and ethnic groups fairly, also a sizable drop. But even in that heated moment, most people — 58 percent — said they thought the police do a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ job of protecting the public. Just a quarter favored reducing police budgets…

“So what's next for reformers, then? For one thing, they should drop the ‘defund the police’ slogan entirely. It was always a sloppy way to refer to a varying set of ideas that only occasionally involved defunding. And there are plenty of other paths to pursue: An April poll by Data for Progress suggests voters will support candidates who would end qualified immunity [and] want to fund non-police interventions in emergencies involving substance abuse or mental illness. ​​‘Defund the police’ might be dead, but the possibilities for reform are still very much alive.”
Joel Mathis, The Week

“If traditional enforcement metrics continue to weigh prominently in officer evaluations, real change will be hard to come by. And more troubling, the public safety motivation for even the most dangerous police actions could be contaminated by an officer’s desire for career advancement. As a former police officer and supervisor, one of us can certainly attest to this daily dilemma many officers face. The weight of unspoken and ubiquitous quotas bound officers’ discretion and almost force them to take a by-the-book approach even in situations where a less formal response is more appropriate…

“New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a law prohibiting police departments from considering the number of arrests or citations in performance and promotion evaluations. By dampening the motivation to hunt in this way, officers can focus on public safety, citizens’ well-being and high-quality arrests rather than beefing up statistics in areas with minimal public safety benefits.”
Thaddeus L. Johnson and Natasha N. Johnson, USA Today

“Every year, American police officers kill roughly 1,000 people. By comparison, New Zealand police officers kill, on average, about eight people per decade. Even if you adjust for the differences in population size, the gap in police violence is staggering. If American officers killed at the same rate per capita as those in New Zealand, about 50 Americans would die every year…

“While American discourse has been focused on what the police do, New Zealand decided to improve upon its already-low levels of police violence by focusing on who the police are… It’s easier to hire good apples than it is to train bad apples to behave better… we need to move beyond the stale arguments that focus only on police behavior. Instead, we need to think much more broadly about police identity and actively seek to recruit good people.”
Brian Klaas, The Atlantic

From the Right

The right criticizes defunding the police, arguing that reducing police would only exacerbate rising crime rates.

The right criticizes defunding the police, arguing that reducing police would only exacerbate rising crime rates.

“Minneapolis voters didn’t need to imagine the results of Amendment 4’s utopian scheme; they have been living through a preview of police abolition. Demoralized and undefended, the city’s rank and file have been exiting the department in droves since rioters burned the Third Precinct to the ground on May 28, 2020…

“Traffic and pedestrian stops dropped at least 75 percent following the George Floyd riots, in response to the charge that police were racist for investigating suspicious activity in high-crime neighborhoods…  

“The results of this de facto experiment in depolicing spoke for themselves. Through September 2021, the number of shots fired in Minneapolis was up 380 percent compared with the same period in 2019. The past 20 months account for almost a quarter of the city’s 70,000 reported gunshot incidents since 2008. Homicides are near record levels.”
Heather Mac Donald, New York Post

Time and again, American cities have experienced the same pattern, often dubbed the ‘Ferguson Effect’: there is a policing incident; the incident goes ‘viral’ and is followed by a public outcry; officers pull back from discretionary activity, including stops and arrests; and shootings and homicides go up…

“One recent study, by Tanaya Devi and Roland Fryer, analyzed investigations of police departments accused of having a ‘pattern or practice’ of civil rights violations. It found that such investigations can improve departments and reduce crime—but when the investigations were spurred by viral incidents, crime skyrocketed instead. The explanation that best fit the data, Devi and Fryer contended, was an ‘abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity’…

“Similarly, Cheng Cheng and Wei Long found that after a wave of highly publicized incidents beginning in late 2014, big cities with large black populations saw decreases in arrests and increases in homicides. Another study, by Travis Campbell, finds that Black Lives Matter protests led to a reduction in local police shootings—but also a drop in clearance rates for property crime, reduced reporting of property crime to the police, and an increase in murders that outnumbered the decrease in police shootings.”
Robert VerBruggen, Manhattan Institute

Polling “shows that only 14 percent of black voters believe Minneapolis should reduce the size of its police force. Seventy-five percent say it should not. Among black voters, the current police chief (who is black and has been in office since 2017, i.e., before, during, and after George Floyd’s murder) is extremely popular — 75 percent favorable, 9 percent unfavorable. White voters’ approval is much lower, at 56-23. On the ballot measure, black support trails white support by nine percentage points — 51 percent of whites want the new Department of Public Safety, but only 42 percent of blacks do…

“The people of Minneapolis don’t need progressives playing word games with ‘licensed peace officers.’ Violent crime was up 17 percent in Minnesota last year, and murders were up 58 percent, breaking a record set in 1995. Minneapolis, like all cities, needs police.”
The Editors, National Review

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