Avowed Marxists and pro-anarchy activists who have led the ongoing riots claim that call has now become a central point in the presidential contest. But the actual policy-makers in those largely blue urban centers seem to differ.
Although they have continued to indulge the radical faction of the Left, they now claim that the true mission has always been to “re-imagine” law enforcement rather than eradicate them altogether.
A review by The Associated Press claimed that while local governments have trimmed police budgets over the past four months, the cuts have been mostly modest.
They have been driven as much by shrinking government revenue related to the coronavirus pandemic as from the calls to rethink public safety.
Advocates still say they want to overhaul a policing system that has repeatedly accused of brutality against black people.
But that generally means shifting money from law enforcement agencies to other efforts, they maintain.
They want social workers rather than police to respond to non-crime emergency calls and more money sent to community programs aimed at preventing crime. They want to take police officers out of schools and military gear away from departments.
“Police don’t really solve or prevent most of what is classified as criminal activity,” said Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a lead activist at the Movement for Black Lives.
But some remain skeptical that the rhetoric behind the shady social-justice groups does not have ulterior long-term motives to undermine democratic institutions from the inside by transferring tax dollars into programs that support their radical, partisan agenda.
Many point to the fact that prosecutors backed by mega-billionaire globalist George Soros in many parts of the country have refused to prosecute criminals for actions that support their leftist mission while targeting law-abiding citizens within their rights who are at odds with the politically correct dogma.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, supports defunding police. Biden, however, has tacitly sought to downplay the controversial stance without risking the alienation of his radical base by overtly condemning it.
Democratic mayors across the U.S. also have pumped the brakes on major changes.
In Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, Oregon, all hotspots for protests and counter protests, the calls for deep police cuts have been answered with modest ones, at least for now.
Even in liberal enclaves such as Berkeley, California—where officials have embraced sweeping changes to policing—implementation is slow-going and uncertain.
Some of the boldest proposals came in Minneapolis, where Floyd died in May while in police custody, triggering the first wave of lawlessness only days afterward. Soon afterward, the majority of the leftist City Council pledged to dismantle the police department.
But with crime rates in the city skyrocketing and public sentiment turning against the initiative, some council members have now backtracked on their pledges, and a ballot measure on the topic won’t go before voters this year.
In Seattle, activists have called for cutting police funding in half. The City Council approved something much more modest—cuts equal to less than 1% of the police budget and shifts of some money to community programs.
Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed even that before the council overrode her in late September, with some calling the measure a down payment on future reductions.
In a statement, Durkan said the calls for budget cuts don’t come with solutions about how to offer many of the services police perform, including dealing with homeless encampments. The problem has long plagued Seattle—with some even proposing measures to force private businesses to provide shelter for the homeless.
But it came to a tipping point after radical activists occupied a six-block portion of the city’s downtown, expelling police and allowing crime to run rampant.
Durkan, who had initially dismissed the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone as a “summer of love” experiment, found a political crisis on her hands after several deaths in the occupied zone that first responders were not able to reach.
“Part of my overwhelming concern about council’s approach on the 2020 budget was a lack of a plan,” said Durkan, who like most big-city mayors, is a Democrat.
In Portland, this year’s police budget is nearly $10 million less than last year’s, but that was far less than the $50 million cut activists had sought. It represents less than 4% of the police budget.
Austin, Texas—a liberal enclave in the otherwise deep-red state—has plans to reduce its police budget by one-third, but it’s not certain that will happen. The city transferred about $21.5 million of its $450 million police budget to areas such as homeless services.
The city is exploring bigger changes, including moving civilian duties such as forensic science and victim services out of the department.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he would consider having the state take over policing in the capital city in response.
In Berkeley, the council agreed in July to create a new traffic enforcement agency with the intent of eliminating racial profiling in traffic stops. But the switch will take time.
Some smaller left-leaning cities also are considering cuts to police.
Burlington, Vermont, adopted a plan to reduce the number of officers by 30% through attrition.
In North Carolina, the Asheville City Council this past summer gave police and other city departments only one-fourth of their annual funding. But in September, the council adopted a budget that repurposes only about 3% of the police budget.
Larger cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have settled on relatively small police budget reductions and boosts to other programs. Philadelphia rolled back planned funding increases.
New York City announced a police budget cut, but a piece of that was moving school officers from the police department to the education department.
Some activists have been underwhelmed at the scope of the changes so far.
“It’s a positive that we were able to prevent increases in budgets,” said Scott Roberts, who leads criminal justice efforts for the racial justice group Color of Change. “But it’s not what we were looking for.”
Patrick Yoes, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has endorsed Trump, told the AP that the defunding talk is demoralizing officers and pushing good candidates away from police careers.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press