One Man’s Opinion: Refunding the Police.

Many political scientists and sociologists view the shifting sands of public opinion as cyclic. In more recent years, exacerbated by social media, as well as legacy media outlets landing often on only one side of a hotly contested topic...I view public opinion swings as much more like a pendulum. Hot exchanges on Twitter, Facebook, and the like, aided and abetted by many media outlets playing to their own biases or viewing base-, presenting opinion as news and fact, can lead to broad shifts in public sentiment and reaction in a compressed time frame.

Following the 2020 summer of racial justice protests, a movement to ‘reimagine’ and/or defund public safety and police departments, largely by moving those fiscal resources elsewhere gained serious momentum. New York City, under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio reduced public safety and police budgets in excess of $1-billion for the coming fiscal year. Seattle, Washington considered closings its jail, and made significant police budget cuts including a $10K reduction in the Chief of Police’s pay. Even law and order bastions like the great state of Texas were not immune, as the capital city of Austin reduced its police department budget by a full third.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, the city where George Floyd lost his life at the hands and chokehold of a police officer, reduced police funding by 50 percent, and began moves to abolish their police department, with plans to transfer those responsibilities to the office of Sheriff.

But as the pandemic deepened, along with the associated shutdowns, job loss, and economic anxiety, violent crime rates began to surge in almost every major American city, as well as in suburban and rural areas that in decades past seldom experienced such movement in crime rates. After more than three decades of declining rates of homicide and other violent crimes, and in part spurred by gang violence (a part of the underground economy that took no downtime during the pandemic), city after city and state after state began to see crime rates surge at or beyond 35-50 year highs.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in his spring State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called loudly and directly for funding the police. Though it was not unanimous, a healthy majority of the audience in the U.S. House chamber, including Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Biden’s call a standing ovation. Biden urged - increase police pay, increase officer accountability and training…but let’s make police better…not batter them.

Nearing two years since the death of George Floyd, a broad awareness remains in place that holding police and peace officers accountable is a major part of the new metrics for effective policing. Training must be enhanced in at least three key areas - De-escalation of conflict, understanding and respecting boundaries and the appropriate use of force.

And the proof of that was seen in the 2021 elections, which included the election of a centrist, former police captain, Greg Adams, as Mayor of New York City, running on a largely law and order platform. Adams and the New York City Council have already restored nearly $200-million in public safety funding in the Big Apple, including $100-million for a new state-of-the-art precinct in southeast Queens. In Seattle, voters sent packing a Mayor and most council members proposing closing the jail and making massive public safety spending cuts. Minneapolis voters rejected a referendum to shut down their police department and move all law enforcement responsibilities over to their Office of Sheriff.

The pendulum is swinging back the other way. Raises are happening for both law enforcement base salaries as well as lateral transfer pay between agencies. Increased training funding AND accountability were part of the C.A.R.E.S. Act, as well as the American Rescue Act during this pandemic. The creation of non-violent crime and mental health response units, for dealing with the mentally ill, homeless, and severely addicted -- which had also fallen on the hands of law enforcement, often not equipped with the tools to best handle that population, is another fast-developing trend in urban areas across America.

There are still many Progressives and others who would prefer to see the ‘in carceral state’ and police departments disbanded and turned over to civilian control. But as I said at the outset about American public opinion, right or wrong, that perspective and viewpoint seem very much now to be held by a shrinking and while vocal, much less amplified minority. Refund your police, defend your police...and remember how long they have been defending you and yours.

>>WATCH:

One Opinion, Vlog # 15, “Refunding the Police.”

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