Efforts to defund police departments nationwide are being engulfed by a wave of violent crime.
Quietly, and without much ado from the press, a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill started in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and passed by the House in March died in the Senate last week.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act wouldn’t have solved all the problems plaguing the U.S. criminal justice system- no one bill could- but it would have been something.
To say that similar such Republican bills, like Sen. Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, were also defeated is a given. The fact that a Democrat-sponsored criminal justice reform bill died in a Democratically-controlled House and Senate, is far more surprising.
It’s one of the many ironies of the post-George Floyd era. BLM protestors surrounding Sen. Rand Paul after the Republican Convention, demanding he “say her name, Breonna Taylor!” when in fact Sen. Paul was one of the only politicians- of any political persuasion- to actually sponsor legislation to end no-knock warrants, like the one that resulted in Ms. Taylor’s death;
“The Justice for Breonna Taylor Act,” of course went nowhere in the Democratically controlled chambers, as it was a Republican effort, but at least Sen. Paul made one.
The odd thing is, the appetite for criminal justice reform was robust long before America was forced to witness the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd.
Though they never got much credit for it at the time, when Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate in 2018, they managed to pass the FIRST STEP Act.
The FIRST STEP Act was the first meaningful effort at criminal justice reform in over a decade. It actually released people- many of them African-American- who were serving unnecessarily harsh sentences.
Republicans not only passed the first meaningful criminal justice reform bill in over 10 years, Republican President Donald Trump signed the bill while openly acknowledging racial disparities in the U.S. legal system.
Even the name “FIRST STEP” clearly implied the need for more action.
Those who hoped the FRIST STEP Act heralded the start of something great were disappointed, however. For the country which still imprisons more of its citizens per capita than any other, nothing more has been accomplished in the way of criminal justice reform since First Step was passed in 2018.
Why not? Where did the determination, the commitment, to fix our broken criminal justice system go?
There is no shortage of things to address; the militarization of the police, civil-asset forfeiture being tied to drug offenses- resulting in an imbalanced system which incentivizes prosecuting non-violent drug offenses over violent crimes- hence thousands of untested rape kits collecting dust year after year.
There is also the fact that white-collar crime, which arguably causes considerable damage in society, has been almost entirely decriminalized. For comparison’s sake, let’s imagine decriminalized violent crimes. How much would the fine be for murdering someone, for instance? How much for armed robbery?
If that sounds ludicrous, consider what happens to the worst white-collar criminals and corporations which flout the law, electing to pay fines as a “cost of doing business” and a drop in the bucket of company profits.
How much for causing the sub-prime mortgage crisis? How much if your negligence and cupidity cause an entire industry to need a trillion dollar bailout from the federal government?
Yet, in spite of all this and the murder of George Floyd, the public, and the federal lawmakers who represent them, seem to have lost their taste for criminal justice reform.
And it isn’t hard to understand why.
The FBI recently reported a 30% surge in murders in 2020, the biggest single-year jump since the FBI started keeping track 60 years ago. Across the nation, violent crime, which had been on a steady decline since the not-so-halcyon days of the 1990’s, has risen sharply.
In major cities like Chicago, New York City, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, rising rates of violent and property crimes have sent residents and business scuttling for safer pastures.
While in some places, like Minneapolis in particular, local lawmakers remain committed to efforts to defund their local police departments, nationwide the trend is being reversed.
Rather than denouncing them, state and local Democratic lawmakers and aspirants to office are featuring uniformed police officers in their campaign commercials and begging police departments to help staunch the bleeding which is occurring in communities across America.
And of course, the bleeding isn’t occurring in affluent communities.
On the contrary. Wealthy people can afford, and often already have, all the security they could want. Gated communities, private security guards, video surveillance systems with off-site monitoring, alarm systems; criminals don’t usually bother with places like that.
Why would they? Even if they managed to circumvent all of the above, criminals stick out like a sore thumb in wealthy neighborhoods, they wouldn’t last 10 minutes.
Poorer communities are much more vulnerable to predation, as criminals know well. If you rob a bank, federal agents of the U.S. government will find you, track you, kick down your door and arrest you.
Better to rob the house on the corner, or the mom-and-pop gas station down the street.
Faced with this phenomenon, some local elected Democrats say and do out-of-touch, deeply classist things like proposing to change the law to prevent future robberies of said convenience store…by requiring the store to close after dark.
“The high-end convenience stores, they have bright lights, multiple staff; they’re open 24 hours; they don’t let people loiter in the parking lot; they know how to do it,” said Illinois State Rep. Rep. Ed Delaney.
Yes, small business owners; in crime-ridden America, better to leave the money to those who can afford to protect it, or lose it.
NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s wife took a certain amount of heat- though not from the press- for suggesting that anyone witnessing a violent hate crime in New York should step in and try to mediate.
Sure- or intervening in hate crimes is something the NYPD should probably be handling.
Criminal justice reform efforts have stalled because the lawlessness of 2020, unremarked upon by virtually anyone on the left, has inextricably linked good-faith reform efforts to efforts to undermine community safety.
Democrats don’t like the answers, so they’ve stopped asking the questions. Want fewer people in jail? Just let them out. Want fewer people arrested? Stop arresting them.
Under the auspices of keeping the public safe from COVID-19, local and state authorities released violent criminals who committed more crimes. To cut down on arrests, lawmakers in San Francisco decriminalized shoplifting under $1,000 dollars.
Videos from San Francisco in the months since have shown thieves, sometimes groups of thieves, carrying great garbage sacks full of merchandise right out the front door while onlookers film and security guards do nothing.
Security guards have probably been ordered to stand down. The solution to this problem, companies like Walgreens and Target have decided, has to come from corporate.
What else would corporate- full of lawyers, accountants and actuaries- decide to do but close stores in locations with heavy losses due to theft.
Oh, these businesses are insured?
Sure they are. Except insurance companies don’t like losing money either. What happens when you make an insurance claim? If your insurance costs don’t go up, please leave the name and number of your insurance agent in the comments.
The same thing happens to companies that make claims for losses of insured merchandise. Only companies, unlike individuals, can pass losses on to customers in the form of higher prices.
Unfortunately for Democrats holding the reigns of power in Washington, there are no easy answers to this conundrum. While voting Democrats in lower-income neighborhoods look on with dismay at the rates of rising crime in their neighborhoods, the wealthy elite wing of the Democratic Party- which is unquestionably on the wax- keeps demanding defunding more and more loudly.
As a result, police departments in cities hardest hit by both violent crime and misguided efforts to defund police, can’t find enough officers, even with plenty of money to pay them.
Police departments nationwide are having to take seasoned detectives and investigators off murder cases, racketeering cases and organized crime rings to put them back on uniformed patrol. Even then, there aren’t enough officers. Many police departments are doing all they can just to staff 911 calls.
Worse, it is proving very difficult to convince certain liberal democrats that police officers might be able to combat the rise in violent crime.
“Murders are spiking,” warned Vox this week, before stating the obvious: “Police should be part of the solution. There’s solid evidence for the crime-fighting abilities of police. But it requires a close look.”
Of course it requires a closer, more nuanced look. After all, publications like Vox have spent the past year convincing their readers that the only functions police officers serve in society are killing innocent Black people and upholding white supremacy.
As a result, progressive Democrats, at least the wealthier ones insulated from rising crime, will not be so easily convinced that police officers are part of any solution. As such, would-be police officers of the progressive persuasion won’t be tendering their application to the police academy anytime soon.
Crime will continue to rise and police officers will continue to kill 1,000 people per year, including some who are unarmed, and some who are killed during dangerous no-knock operations which frequently result in the deaths of police officers as well as suspects deprived of their lives along with their due process.
There isn’t much inclination to do anything about either.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)