Jeanette Strong: Defunding the police?


 
“The ‘Defund the Police’ campaign — endorsed by Democrats — has decimated our law enforcement. … When Republicans are in the majority, we will FUND the police,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., June 25.
“Dems’ manta (sic) ‘Defund the Police’ was one of their top policy messaging points in 2020.… GOP has always supported increasing funding for police,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., June 28.
Ever since Joe Biden became a candidate for president, Republicans have accused him and the Democrats of wanting to defund the police. As usual, these claims fall far short of the truth.
President Biden has said many times he doesn’t want to defund the police. In fact, his fiscal 2022 budget proposes a huge increase in funding for police, over twice as much as was provided in President Donald Trump’s final budget. Biden is proposing $388 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program for state and local governments. Trump provided $156.5 million.
Factually, it’s Republicans who’ve undercut funding for police. McCarthy, quoted above, voted against funding for the COPS program in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. He voted against increased funding again this year.
The National Association of Police Officers, a group which endorsed Trump’s reelection, has scored Republican and Democratic Congress members based on their support for police. Representatives McCarthy and Stefanik, quoted above, both scored 57 percent. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., scored 80 percent. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., scored 86 percent.
Most Democratic members scored much higher than Republicans. Why? “The reason is simple. Democrats, at least at the federal level, have been the ones funding the police.” (Washington Post, June 29)
Democrats don’t want to defund the police. They want to reallocate some of those funds to items such as public heath, education, and housing. Someone having a mental health crisis or experiencing homelessness needs trained intervention, not an armed officer.
There are 18,000 police departments in America, dedicated to protecting civilians. In spite of that, police kill hundreds of people every year. “(In 2018) police shot and killed 998 people, 11 more than the 987 they fatally shot in 2017. In 2016, police killed 963 people, and 995 in 2015.” But from early 2005 to June 2019, only 104 non-federal law enforcement officers were arrested on murder or manslaughter charges related to an on-duty shooting; only 35 were convicted of a crime.
In contrast, in the United Kingdom, police killed a total of 22 people in the past 10 years. Why the difference? “Where there’s a lot of civilians that own guns, fatal police shootings happen more often.” (Washington Post, Feb. 12, 2019)
Gun control itself is a separate issue, but if police don’t know if the person they are approaching is armed, they are more apt to shoot. That’s why there are so many shootings of people holding cell phones, toy guns, and other non-lethal items, and why police shootings of civilians rarely happen in countries with stricter gun laws.
What will Biden do to reduce crime and help local police? His crime plan has five major focuses: “giving local law enforcement federal resources to curb summer violent crime; investing in community violence programs; stemming the flow of illegal firearms; expanding summer programming, employment opportunities and other support services for teens and young adults; and helping formerly incarcerated people re-enter communities.” (Newsweek, June 23)
The American Rescue Plan, passed by Democrats in Congress this year, provided $350 billion for state and local governments. Biden has encouraged these communities to use some of these funds to hire more law enforcement officers. The ARP has money available through the Youth Workforce Development program to help young people find productive work during the summer, helping reduce crime. The Justice Department has set aside $267 million for community violence intervention programs.
All these programs are intended to support police departments and give them tools that work. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote, “This approach to crime may not be revolutionary, but it is rational, practical and well-devised.”
This plan has also exposed the odious Republican lie that Biden wants to defund the police. As Gerson said, “It has revealed that the weed of ridiculous and ignorant partisanship has taken over the entire Republican garden.” (Washington Post, June 28)
Solving real problems takes real work. Biden promised to increase federal funding for the police and he’s keeping that promise. If Republicans want to make our country safer, they need to stop lying and start helping. Wouldn’t that be great!
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at news@lahontanvalleynews.com.

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