NYT: Remember "Defund the Police"? Good times, good times

(Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Er … not really, as even the New York Times acknowledges. A year after the “defund the police” movement left cities with less law enforcement and a whole lot more crime, police departments are getting their funding restored. As it turns out, having fewer police means a lot more crime.

Who knew?  I mean, besides nearly every sentient being:

In cities across America, police departments are getting their money back. From New York to Los Angeles, departments that saw their funding targeted amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd last year have watched as local leaders voted for increases in police spending, with an additional $200 million allocated to the New York Police Department and a 3 percent boost given to the Los Angeles force.

The abrupt reversals have come in response to rising levels of crime in major cities last year, the exodus of officers from departments large and small and political pressures. After slashing police spending last year, Austin restored the department’s budget and raised it to new heights. In Burlington, Vt., the city that Senator Bernie Sanders once led as mayor went from cutting its police budget to approving $10,000 bonuses for officers to stay on the job.

But perhaps nowhere has the contrast been as stark as in Dallas, where Mr. Johnson not only proposed to restore money to the department but moved to increase the number of officers on the street, writing over the summer that “Dallas needs more police officers.”

A funny thing happened after Mayor Eric Johnson made that public declaration … nothing:

After the mayor proposed increasing funding, no protests followed. When the Council backed a budget that restored many of the cuts made last year, few came to the public hearing, and even fewer spoke against the plan, which included the hiring of 250 officers. It passed with little fanfare last month.

The lack of public outcry points up the pushback on the radical proposal to scale back urban policing. That hasn’t only come from conservatives; in fact, it mostly comes from the people most impacted by the crime waves that followed — the voters serviced by those urban law-enforcement agencies. “Defund” protests and the instant pandering to them by city councils and local governments have proven disastrous, leading to the sharpest increase in murders and violent crime in the nation’s recorded history.

That has made “defund” a lot less cool. How much less cool? Well

Morgan Freeman has spoken out against the movement to defund the police, saying law enforcement is “very necessary.”

The iconic Hollywood actor was promoting his newest movie, The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, when he was asked about the topic. Freeman said in an interview with Black Enterprise that while he does recognize the need to address police violence in black communities, he rejects the idea of defunding the police.

“I’m not in the least bit for defunding the police,” Freeman said. “Police work is, aside from all the negativity around it, it is very necessary for us to have them and most of them are guys that are doing their job. They’re going about their day-to-day jobs. There are some police who would never pulled their guns except in a range, that sort of thing. I don’t know.”

Fox analyst Leo Terrell predicted that Freeman would get a lot of pushback in Hollywood over those remarks. If Freeman had said this a year ago, we would have immediately seen a massive cancel effort on social media directed at him, just as a start. At least so far, though, all we’re hearing is crickets. That’s how much less cool “defund” has become nearly everywhere.

About the only major metropolitan area not contemplating a restoral of funding is the Twin Cities, where the “defund” movement got catalyzed by the George Floyd homicide in May 2020. Minneapolis voters will get a chance to strip the city of its charter requirement for a police department next month. Its sister city across the river is still seeing its police funding bleed away, prompting a rare public budget fight between its mayor and police chief:

Citing an inability to keep up with a surge in crime that’s overwhelming officers, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell is asking the City Council to spend $3.1 million more on his department than what Mayor Melvin Carter proposed.

The unusual bucking of authority during a routine budget presentation on Wednesday sparked tensions between the police chief, the mayor and council members about the role of law enforcement in St. Paul, a debate that has intensified in cities across the country since the murder of George Floyd sparked calls to defund police agencies and invest in alternative public safety programs. …

The chief’s proposal, which was not vetted by the city’s budget office, is primarily focused on ensuring the police department is at all times staffed by 620 sworn officers — the force’s authorized strength — throughout the next year and beyond.

Carter has proposed allocating $120.8 million, about 17% of the city’s overall budget, to police in 2022. That amount is $1.2 million less than what the department received in 2021, but Carter’s plan shifts $5.1 million from the police to other city departments taking over management of St. Paul’s community ambassadors program and emergency communications center.

Last year, as the city scrambled to account for revenue losses and unexpected costs resulting from the pandemic, Carter made citywide budget cuts that included $3.7 million in attrition for police — a decision that helped the department avoid layoffs. But Axtell said as a result, the department couldn’t afford to replace officers who retired or resigned, so the size of the force dwindled to 563 over the past year and a half.

Even there, though, the pushback is coming. A gunfight in a St. Paul bar this weekend has turned into a potent political argument that threatens to paint Democrats as the anti-law enforcement party:

Republican candidate for Minnesota governor Scott Jensen says a mass shooting at a St. Paul bar early Sunday morning shows the idea of defunding the police is “ridiculous.” …

On Facebook, Jensen posted a video of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher driving through the area of the shooting the night before it happened. Fletcher regularly livestreams patrols from his squad car.

“We never had any shots fired right here,” Fletcher says while driving past Seventh Street Truck Park. “I hope we never do, but with this volume, at some point, it’s gonna happen, right?”

“We need cops,” Jensen wrote. “Sheriff Bob Fletcher predicted there would be a shooting at Truck Park in St Paul a night before it happens… we need to trust our police and give them all the resources to keep our cities safe. Any talk of defunding them is ridiculous!”

If Republicans win a statewide election in Minnesota — very much a long shot — policing will immediately get credit as the major issue in the reversal. It may be the only issue that could possibly produce a statewide GOP win in Minnesota’s 2022 elections. If that happens, and if Republicans sweep into state and local offices next year, you can bet that the only thing that Democrats will “defund” in 2023 are the defunders.

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