News and Analysis

How ‘Defund the Police’ Became A ‘Suicide Pact’

The good news is Democratic politicians have begun worrying that their “Defund the Police” policies, which coincided with a massive spike in violent crime nationwide, have created “a suicide pact.” The bad news is their apparent shift stems from a concern that they have committed political suicide, not a realization that their actions needlessly cost American lives.

This contrast came into light when Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva charged the county’s Board of Supervisors with cementing a “suicide pact” and “showing deliberate indifference to the obvious impact on public safety” after its members voted “to fire 4,000 deputies for not being vaccinated.” Those who observed police relations in cities that had chosen to defund the police nationwide agreed.

“This decision is going to risk the safety of every L.A. County citizen,” National Sheriffs’ Association executive director Jonathan Thompson told Paul Bedard of The Washington Examiner. “During a record jump on crime, now is not the time to employ ultimatums to those we need the most.”

This move followed after Mayor Eric Garcetti cut the LAPD police budget by $150 million in June 2020, weeks after the death of George Floyd.

According to Villanueva, the “Board of Supervisors Vote to Terminate Approximately 4000 #LASD Personnel During a Time When Murders Have Increased Over 94% and A Hiring Freeze in the Department.”

Indeed, 12 cities — all led by Democrats — set annual homicide records in 2021. Philadelphia’s murder rate rose 13%. Chicago’s murder rate increased by 3%. These come on the heels of a 30% murder increase nationally in 2020.

A combination of factors have led to cities losing police officers. Large cities nationwide report early retirements, resignations, and liquidations of police officers who refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccination have reduced the number of officers on the force.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) revealed last month that Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Police lack approximately 200 officers, roughly 10% of its force, before discussing the national scope of the law enforcement deficit. “My hometown, Springfield, Missouri, is looking for 40 officers,” he said. “Columbia, Missouri, a department of 187, is looking for 20 officers.” A June 2021 survey from the survey the Police Executive Research Forum found that the average police force is missing 7% of its workforce.

The paucity of police officers and a generally anti-law enforcement culture has imperiled cops and civilians alike. A record number of law enforcement officers died from gunfire while patrolling America’s streets in 2021. Since the beginning of this year, eight police officers have been shot to death while on duty, and three have died from vehicular assaults, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. And the funeral of one of those officers, Jason Rivera of the New York Police Department, riveted the nation.

Anti-police violence seemed to culminate on Friday, February 11, when a total of 13 officers were shot within 24 hours. In Phoenix, nine police officers answering a report of a young woman being held hostage came under fire while rescuing her one-month-old baby. Police say the woman died of her wounds, and the shooter committed suicide. In Frederick, Maryland, police investigating a report of a suspicious man say he opened fire with a handgun, injuring both officers on the scene. The same day in Philadelphia, a suspect fired through a wall at a SWAT Team that came to serve him with a drug warrant, striking one officer, who survived thanks to his bulletproof vest.

At the time, Democratic politicians seemed to show little interest in the unfolding American carnage. They reveled in the “mostly peaceful protests” that heralded the national racial reckoning, which they hoped would lead to increased funding for social welfare policies and the broader embrace of Critical Race Theory. But then, the issue began to threaten their electoral success.

As long ago as last May, CNN’s John Avlon warned, “Republicans can turn rising crime into a culture war wedge issue.” A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken last month found that 75% of Americans agree that defunding the police has caused crime to rise to some extent, and 69% believe that increasing police budgets would reduce the crime rate. (This should hardly be surprising: A recent study from the UK found that when police responded to every burglary, the crime rate fell.)

Some Democrats refuse to bow to the polls, like Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). She previously conjoined excessive self-regard with indifference to American safety by telling Americans, “Suck it up, defunding the police has to happen. We need to defund the police and put it into social safety nets, because we’re trying to save lives.” Earlier this month, Axios reported that Bush said she would continue to advocate for truly defunding the police, even though her colleagues have told her that “defund the police doesn’t help in their districts.”

One of the people trying to pressure Bush may well be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who has broken with her publicly. “With all the respect in the world for Cori Bush, that is not the position of the Democratic Party,” she told George Stephanopoulos recently.

Pelosi has grown increasingly frazzled trying to balance political realities with the demands of her party’s Left-wing caucus. When the issue first roared into U.S. consciousness in June 2020, Pelosi told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin that “perhaps we can shuffle some of that money around.”

Similarly, President Joe Biden has tried to walk the political tightrope. While on the campaign trail in 2020, then-candidate Biden told an interviewer he could “absolutely” agree to redirect some police funding. While Pelosi has noted that police funding is a local issue, she did not mention that every major urban area that has defunded the police is led by a Democrat.

Politically vulnerable Democrats have warned fellow members of Congress against pursuing their party base’s far-Left criminal justice policies. In November 2020, Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who represents a purple-to-red district in Virginia, told her fellow Democrats, “No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again. … Nobody should be talking about socialism.”

After countless victims, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party only seem to take notice when “Defund the Police” threatens to become their political suicide pact.

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