“Defund the police!” led criminal justice reform efforts right off a cliff. “End civil asset forfeiture!” should have been the rallying cry instead.

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Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash.

Rising crime in cities across America has elected Democrats and Democratic candidates running, not walking, from the progressive movement to “Defund the Police.”

“Defund the police,” was always a road to nowhere. And maybe it was designed to be.

Sometimes people opposed to a movement, instead of countering it outright, will platform and empower the least viable aspects of it. It’s a sort of “damning with faint praise” meets “straw man” attack formation. Kind of like the way those defending industrialized agriculture and overfishing against environmentalists always try to reduce the argument to “cow farts.”

The reason for this is simple: “Cow farts,” sounds stupid.

“Intense animal agricultural operations and commercial overfishing is a growing threat to the environment, just take a look at this latest factory-farm-times-five in China,” is harder to dismiss.

“Defund the police!” and “Stop Cow Farts!” are proposals made by people who don’t really want anything done about either.

They know arguments about extreme measures will take years to play out in the public sphere, during which time nothing whatsoever will be done about any of it. After a certain amount of stalling and obfuscation, the public mood for policing and criminal justice reform will have shifted- as indeed it already has- and the issue can be safely relegated to the back burner where it has been simmering away for decades.

Things like “defund police!” and “end qualified immunity!” were always bound to draw intense pushback, even from blocs that reliably vote Democrat.

Why start with the highest, most inaccessible fruit when there was so much low-hanging and poisonous fruit ready to drop off the criminal justice reform vine?

Ending no-knock warrants could have easily passed with bipartisan support; as might have a sensible measure like ending traffic stops. Traffic cams work better anyway and the dangerous task of arresting people on outstanding warrants should not fall to the most inexperienced cops on the beat- uniformed patrol cops.

Ending for-profit prisons, those blights on the American landscape, could also have been tackled with thunderous popular support.

There are plenty of other measures which could also have had some chance of becoming law. That they were all thrown aside for something that never had a chance of working is telling.

Activists serious about criminal justice reform should turn their attention to more viable aspects of the movement- and avoid being bamboozled by pithy sloganeering and endless soapboxing.

One prime example:

Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture changed the nature of policing in America because of a simple, immutable law of the universe as old as gravity: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

“Civil asset forfeiture,” means that when local police departments arrest someone in possession of illegal drugs, they can often seize a portion of that person’s assets during the course of the investigation, vehicles being one prime example.

Before civil asset forfeiture, all cop cars looked the same- remember? Once upon a time it was Crown Victorias as far as the eye could see. Now, cops drive Mustangs, Range Rovers, and a thousand others. Civil asset forfeiture is the reason.

With this kind of incentive, of course local and state police agencies started hyper-focusing on drug crimes.

A handful of years later, the taxpayer no longer has to foot the bill for souped-up Crown Vics, but millions of people are spending life in prison on nonviolent drug offenses and there is a backlog of untested rape kits in America stretching back over a decade.

The words “backlog”, “untested”, and “rape kits,” do not belong in the same sentence- and especially not before a number like “100,000” Or 400,000. The huge backlog of untested rape kits is a scandal, it’s an outrage. There should be demonstrations in the street.

We are living in an age of advanced technology and DNA science so advanced, serial violent offenders have been caught after decades of evading detection. Amateur sleuths on the internet have used online DNA kit mapping services to trace cold-case suspects through their family members.

Woe to criminals everywhere: Forensic scientists can now take the tiniest sample of DNA from a crime scene, plug it into a computer and out pops…a face. A real human face; the face of the unknown killer. Move over Perry Mason.

The process isn’t perfect; our DNA plays only a part in how we look. Environmental factors that contribute to aging, like sun damage, can’t be predicted in a DNA sample. Neither can DNA predict whether someone is likely to be bearded or clean shaven. DNA can’t give police the age of their suspect.

But police detectives often have a very good idea who committed the crime already, even if they don’t have enough evidence to prove it. “Beyond a reasonable doubt,” is a very high legal burden to meet, as it should be.

The face of the #1 suspect popping out of a police supercomputer is compelling indeed.

Like all first-gen advancements, it’s expensive.

As expensive as the knowledge that female victims are still waiting for justice? The scandal of untested rape kits in America should be enough to outrage lawmakers on both sides of the aisle into action, if only due attention would be paid to this gross failure to live up to the ideals of the American justice system.

In theory, America’s is one of the best and most well-designed legal justice systems in history. In practice, eliminating this shameful blight would go a long way towards making the intentions of the U.S. founding fathers a reality.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)