‘Defund the Police’ debate shows support for police funding


President Joe Biden participates in a town hall-style interview in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 21, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

Democrats are pro-police except when they are against them.

The Two parties in Washington are expected to have contentious political disagreements, but in the last partisan clash they appear to agree. President Biden said at a town hall on Wednesday that Republicans who claim to be the only pro-police party are “lying” because he also supports law enforcement and opposes “police funding” . In fact, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and other Democrats have accused Republicans fund the police after the GOP spent the last year lambasting progressive calls to do just that.

Psaki’s argument revolves around the US bailout, which sent relief money to states and communities. The bill made no mention of police funding, but local officials are now deciding to spend the law enforcement funds amid a wave of crime, and Democrats are eager to claim responsibility. Most observers recognize this messaging tactic as a revisionist story. No Republican has opposed the bill because it could someday help law enforcement, and many Democratic supporters of the legislation openly support police funding.

But this latest skirmish in the “defund” debate belies something more promising – everyone (or almost everyone) inside the Beltway wants to fund the police. And since law enforcement funding that is a byproduct of the US bailout will not last forever, lawmakers should seize this opportunity to formalize, expand, and expand federal support for law enforcement, with an emphasis on the fight against crime.

The recent decision of the Biden administration advice on the use of relief money strengthens federal support for law enforcement, but future funding efforts should do more to prioritize effective strategies. The plan touts community-based violence response programs, which “intervene in conflict and connect people to social, health, welfare and economic services” and can “reduce homicides by up to 60%”. Corn The report cited by the White House revealed that only one very specific type of program, called Group Violence Intervention or “Targeted Deterrence,” has achieved these remarkable results.

This approach does more than direct potential killers to social services. As part of these programs, networks of young men involved in cycles of criminal activity are offered both a carrot (welfare) and a stick: the prospect of vigorous prosecution for any future violence and the attention of people. group-wide law enforcement, if applicable. continue to perpetrate violent crimes. For fear of upsetting progressives, it seems, the White House conveniently makes no mention of this crucial tool when allocating its relief money. A longer-term federal funding measure could explicitly fund targeted deterrence programs, along with the prosecution resources needed to support them.

The White House’s focus on reducing the supply of illicit firearms with federal task forces also demonstrates misaligned priorities. Restricting criminals’ access to guns is notoriously difficult, as police departments across the country have a proven track record save success in removing guns from the streets after criminals acquire them. A better federal approach to supporting law enforcement would fund “hotspot” police departments that send more officer patrols to high crime areas, where the most illegal weapons can be confiscated – and more importantly. , where the odds are highest of removing likely shooters from the street. To give just one example, in the six months this strategy was tried in Kansas City, cops who were exclusively looking for guns made 616 arrests and seized 65% more guns, and homicides decreased by 49%.

When it comes to putting more police on the streets, the administration urged localities to use funds “to hire police officers.” . . directly focused on advancing community policing strategies. As we have seen, there are some useful community strategies, but at present many departments have more urgent needs. For example, many localities would benefit the most from increased resources for survey units. As recent report For Anthony Braga’s Manhattan Institute, only 47% of gun murders and 32% of non-fatal shootings were solved in 2020 in New York City (which has one of the best rates among major cities), leaving many shooters in the street.

These low customs clearance rates, as they are called, are oddly common across the country. And when perpetrators are at large, the deterrent effect of the justice system is undermined by a growing awareness that crimes are likely to go unpunished. Worse yet, victims and those around them often take justice into their own hands to compensate for perceived shortcomings of the local police, thus perpetuating cycles of retaliatory violence. The Boston Police Department, however, has dramatically improved clearance rates by focusing more resources on its investigative staff and support structures, partially funded by federal grants. On this issue, as with many others, the Biden administration may be open to increased federal support for law enforcement – as long as it can transcend the narrow set of police operations that lend themselves to progressives. . Ideally, new funding would meet the hiring needs of local services, whatever they may be.

While there is strong evidence behind targeted deterrence, hot spot policing, and investigative capacity building, these are just a few tools among many, not panaceas against urban violence, and cities should use a range of new and existing strategies to tackle crime. It would be easier if the federal government expanded its meager $ 7 million grant program for policing innovation and evidence-based strategies and funded more research into best practices for reducing urban violence.

Bipartyism is rare these days, but there could be a political opening for a 21st century police funding bill. Democrats seem to realize that police funding is a winning issue, and they should use their current power accordingly. Republicans, for their part, might be skeptical of giving the Biden administration a big win over an anti-crime package, but serious lawmakers know our cities need their help. And it’s not hard to imagine the possibility that a police funding measure will fail because progressive activists turn Democrats against it. It would be a loss to the country, but at least it would illuminate the absurdity of suggesting Republicans want to fund the police.

James Cross is a college associate at the Manhattan Institute and a student at Princeton University.


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