Confirmed: "Defund the police" is too far left for Bernie Sanders

Only he knows if this is his honest view or if he’s just being a good soldier for Biden by using his influence over progressives to try to get them to clam up about this inane, frightening idea.

Either way, it can now be said: “Defund the police” is officially too weird for socialism. And you need to be pretty weird to be too weird for socialism.

Then again, it’s not like socialist states are known to be anti-police. To the contrary.

Do I think we should not have police departments in America? No, I don’t. There’s no city in the world that does not have police departments. What you need are—I didn’t call for more money for police departments. I called for police departments that have well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals. And, too often around this country right now, you have police officers who take the job at very low payment, don’t have much education, don’t have much training—and I want to change that. I also called for the transformation of police departments into—understanding that many police departments and cops deal every day with issues of mental illness, deal with issues of addiction, and all kinds of issues which should be dealt with by mental-health professionals or others, and not just by police officers.

I think we want to redefine what police departments do, give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined. So I do believe that we need well-trained, well-educated, and well-paid professionals in police departments. Anyone who thinks that we should abolish all police departments in America, I don’t agree.

That’s the standard line this week from mainstream Democrats when asked about the “defund” push. Whatever radicals may have in mind when they talk about the subject (and even they don’t know for sure), establishment Dems say they want to see tasks that are currently performed by the police but are capable of being performed by other agencies offloaded to those agencies. Whether that’ll do anything to meaningfully reduce police violence is an open question but it’ll certainly help pad the budgets of social services. Alex Tabarrok offers an alternate slogan to police reformers: Instead of “defund the police,” which is a total political nonstarter, how about unbundling the police?

Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer. The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job–make road safety nice. Highways England hires traffic officers for some of these tasks (although they are not yet authorized to issue speeding tickets).

Similarly, the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeles–jobs like that should be farmed out to other agencies. Notice that we have lots of other safety issues that are not handled by the police. Restaurant inspectors, for example, do over a million restaurant inspectors annually but they don’t investigate murder or drug charges and they are not armed. Perhaps not coincidentally, restaurant inspectors are not often accused of inspector brutality, “Your honor, I swear I thought he was reaching for a knife….”.

Sounds like Bernie’s all for it — although he also emphasized that cops should be “well-paid” not once but twice in the excerpt above. Presumably that’s a nudge to attracting higher caliber officers and instilling a more professional culture, but it seems that some of his fans have grumbled about him wanting more resources for the police in the past. Why not just, you know, defund the police?

Charles Fain Lehman looked at the polling on that question over many years and, uh, here’s why you don’t demand that we defund the police. Not if you’re a semi-serious political movement that’s semi-seriously trying to win elections.

Despite their longstanding complaints about the police, even black Americans don’t get to 20 percent support on cutting police funding, let alone completely defunding departments. Say what you like about Bernie, at least he can read a poll.

By the way, Axios has a sneak peek at the Senate Republican bill on police reform that’s in the works, spearheaded by Tim Scott. What’s there right now seems underwhelming — various incentives for states to be more transparent about police abuses but not much pressure on them to implement specific reforms. The bill would also create a commission to study police reform, which is practically a punchline when it comes to government. A commission’s what you set up when you don’t want to do much of anything and aren’t in a hurry to do it. A more interesting possibility, though, is the idea of state review boards to scrutinize incidents involving police that may involve unnecessary force or racial profiling. Mitt Romney mentioned that yesterday; Axios notes that it’s in the mix for the GOP bill but apparently not included right now.

Probably doesn’t matter. Senate Dems will be in no mood to compromise, believing that they might have total control of government just seven months from now and expecting that they can use the GOP’s reluctance to pass aggressive police reform against the party on the stump this fall. Trump probably won’t compromise either, convinced as he is that his base alone can get him to 270 electoral votes and not wanting to risk alienating them by supporting a package that’s seen as “anti-police.” Senate Republicans may as well be bold in their package, then. It won’t become law and they can tell swing voters, “Hey, we tried.”

Here’s the doofus on the Minneapolis City Council admitting last night that a “police-free future” is her aspiration, whether or not it’s an aspiration that can be realized. As of this moment, the most shocking police reform to happen this week in the United States is probably the cancellation of the show “Cops.” Where will I go now to get my weekly peek at the squalid underbelly of the American dream? Oh, right, right.