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Biden announces plans to help cities refund police, but many are way ahead of him

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Biden launched his new plan to combat the spike in crime today. The NY Post highlights some of Biden’s plans including using money from the American Rescue Plan to refund police:

“We’re now providing more guidance on how they can use the $350 billion… to help reduce crime and address the root causes,” Biden said. “For example, cities experiencing an increase in gun violence are able to use American Rescue Plan dollars to hire police officers needed for community policing and to pay their overtime.”

Biden said that he believed some cities cut funding for police due to pandemic-related budget woes. He didn’t mention a push by fellow Democrats to defund the police following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin.

Biden also said that violence “spiked since the start of the pandemic over a year ago,” adopting a largely Democratic argument that crime is increasing because of COVID-19 and not because of a policing pullback amid anti-police brutality protests and riots.

Of course he’s not going to connect the rise in crime to Black Lives Matter protests or the general anti-police tone of the national conversation last summer. Biden is turning his back on the “defund the police” elements in his party but he’s trying to do it without offending half his base. He essentially wants to ignore BLM’s policy prescriptions. Stirring progressives up by referring to the Ferguson Effect would be counter-productive.

In case you were wondering, it’s not just the NY Post that saw Biden’s comments as a call to refund police. The NY Times said much the same thing:

Facing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.

In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes.

The Times goes on to say that this is part of a considered strategy that Democrats have been moving toward over the past month as they become increasingly concerned crime could be a major issue in the 2022 elections, one that will hurt them if they’re not careful.

But President Biden isn’t leading so much as following. Cities around the country have mostly already decided to shrug off the “defund the police” push. Just in the past few days there have been reports about the increase in police funding in several states. For instance, in Rhode Island:

For months after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis cop last June, many of the protesters who took to the streets of Rhode Island had a demand: Defund the police.

A year later, the opposite has happened. Some of Rhode Island’s biggest and busiest police departments have seen increases in funding. Others stayed relatively level. And no department has seen meaningful cuts, as cities like Austin and Seattle have.

The same is true in Michigan according to an analysis carried out by Michigan Public Radio:

In April, Detroit council member Raquel Castañeda-López proposed an amendment that would have cut the Detroit police budget by $39 million – a 12% reduction. In Grand Rapids last July, city commissioner Milinda Ysasi proposed cutting her city’s police budget by $9 million.

Those efforts – in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids – all failed. All three cities plan to increase funding for their police departments in the coming year. And they are not alone.

As cities approach a new fiscal year starting July 1, a Michigan Radio analysis of Michigan’s largest 20 cities finds most will be increasing their police budget from last year’s dollar amount.

Among those cities, few will reduce the number of officers.

Democrats are smart to try to catch up to what cities around the country are already doing. Defund the police was a horrible slogan and an even worse policy. Fortunately, most cities never went through with it and the few that did, including Minneapolis and New York, are already correcting course.

But just because cuts weren’t made in most places doesn’t mean the larger movement that drove those calls to defund the police didn’t have a major impact on policing and crime. Police know that progressives and the media are eager to undercut them and so they are pulling back on proactive policing. The impact of undermining police nationwide deserves to be an issue in 2022 and it will be. All Democrats can do now is try to limit the damage.

Here’s Biden’s speech trying to do just that: