Certainly true in light of the common political axiom — if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Ever since “Defund the Police” became the rallying cry of the Left, Democratic Party leaders and media outlets have rushed to the barricades to explain that “defund” doesn’t mean, er … “defund.” Needless to say, that explanation not only sounds like double-speak, it has gotten actively discredited by people like the Minneapolis city council that insist that they intend to defund and disband local police departments.
In calling it “probably one of the worst slogans ever,” the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) is only offering a recognition of reality, on multiple levels:
Rep. Karen Bass, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, described calls to “defund the police” a terrible rallying cry but said law enforcement officers shouldn’t have to become involved in situations that could be better handled by social workers.
“I told some friends that’s probably one of the worst slogans ever,” Bass (D-Calif.) said during a Washington Post live broadcast on Monday.
She said police department budgets could be reduced if communities shift some of the burdens to other agencies.
“Police officers are the first ones to say they are law-enforcement officers, they’re not social workers. What we have done in our country is, we have not invested in health, social and economic problems in communities. We leave the police to pick up the pieces,” Bass, of Los Angeles, said. “In my city, for example, on any given night, we have over 40,000 people who are homeless. Why should the police be involved with that?”
Er … because local authorities pass laws against some of that activity? This points up the first problem with “Defund the Police,” which is that law enforcement follows law creation. If police get too involved in people’s lives, it’s because politicians in local communities and states pass laws to respond to complaints from their constituents. Passing laws requires enforcing laws, so the more laws we pass, the more police we need. If people want less police contact in their lives, they should consider repealing laws that keep putting police in contact with them.
Whose responsibility is that? Local city councils and state legislatures, primarily. Democrats almost completely control the former, and while Republicans tend to control the latter, there has been little movement at either level to repeal intrusive laws. Congress and the White House have no formal jurisdiction and really no informal influence either, except to the extent that both of those institutions are guilty of the same impulse to pass laws first and ask questions later.
Another bad aspect to this slogan — at least for Democrats — is the way it sets expectations for the impossible. Not only are police not going away, the real way to deal with the problems at hand is to emphasize community policing, which requires more police rather than fewer. When the result of all this sturm und drang becomes more officers in the streets, these activists are going to be furious — and some of them will abandon the Democrats for fringier parties to give vent to their disillusionment. That’s the price they will pay for promoting a slogan that promises an impossibility.
Besides, as Harvard professor Roland Fryer told College Fix’s Troy Sargent, fewer police would end up putting a disproportionate number of black lives at risk. Fryer, himself an African-American, says #DefundthePolice could cost “thousands of black lives”:
Fryer and Harvard doctoral student Tanaya Devi studied “Pattern-or-Practice” investigations into viral incidents of alleged police brutality that involved a black person who died. Each reviewed video of these incidents had received at least 2 million views at the time of the study.
“Pattern-or-Practice” investigations are used by federal and state governments to mitigate unconstitutional police activity including, but not limited to, excessive force and racial bias.
According to the Harvard scholars’ working paper on the impact of these investigations into police activity on homicide and crime rates, published in early June, the investigations resulted in “almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies.”
This spike in the crime rate occurred over the course of two years in the five cities where those deaths and viral incidents occurred: Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
While the underlying cause of this dramatic spike is unknown, Fryer and Devi hypothesize that it is caused by a substantial decrease in proactive police activity. …
“If the price of policing increases, officers are rational to retreat,” the research paper concludes. “And, retreating disproportionately costs black lives.”
It’s a bad slogan. It’s an even worse idea.