What does defunding the police really mean? Well, just look at the looting and violence that happened when police were ordered to stand down during recent riots.
Everyone agrees – police and civilians alike -- that Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin behaved very wrongly in killing George Floyd. Despite there still being no evidence yet that the officer was racist, it is simply assumed that racism motivated the white cop’s abusive actions.
To address concerns about how police treat minorities, the Minneapolis City Council has announced a year-long program to disband the Minneapolis police department. San Leandro, California voted to defund their 93 member police force. Los Angeles is redirecting $250 million from the police to social programs. New York City is debating cutting the police budget by $1 billion. The Austin, Texas police department is eliminating 100 officers and delaying a police cadet class that was scheduled to start in July.
Police are not the bad guys, and most Americans know that. Monmouth University surveys over the last five years reveal that black Americans nationwide have become more satisfied with their local police departments. The percentage satisfied reached 72 percent in June — a rate that is now identical to that for whites.
There is other more direct evidence on how many blacks view local police. If blacks really believe that police are racist, black victims would presumably be less likely than white victims to report crimes committed against them. After all, they would doubt the commitment of the officers to solve the crimes. They would think that officers will engage in profiling and arrest an innocent black suspect.
In fact, blacks don’t shy away from reporting crimes to the police. U.S. Department of Justice survey data on crimes reported to police shows that blacks are actually more likely than whites to report violent crimes committed against them to the police by 9 percentage points (54 percent to 45 percent).
If you want to get rid of the police, that will mean no arrests, no convictions, and eventually no prisons. This change would be so far outside anything that the U.S. has ever experienced. But if research by economists gives us anything to go on, it may very well cause an 80 percent or more increase in murder rates.
Research also finds that the benefits of policing are greatest in those areas where crime rates are highest — namely poor, black, urban areas. These neighborhoods would stand to lose the most by defunding the police.
The cities where police are supposedly out of control and harming minorities have one thing in common – they are run by liberal Democrats. Indeed, almost all of them have been run exclusively by Democrats for many decades. For example, Los Angeles has only had one Republican mayor since 1961. Minneapolis and St. Paul haven’t had Republican mayors for over 45 years. As these politicians failed to protect their citizens, it may be the Democratic politicians and not the police who are to blame.
One searches in vain for Democratic politicians who have reprimanded the rioters. After several nights of riots, Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, egged on demonstrators by calling for a continuation of the “righteous protests” and necessary routing out of “racism” that she said is endemic in Minnesota. On Thursday, not a single Democrat in the House voted for a resolution condemning acts of violence and rioting — including the "deliberate targeting of law enforcement officers," as well as opposing the defunding of police.
Yet, the very politicians who want to disband the police and who ordered the police to stand down during the riots after George Floyd’s death are the same people who want to ban civilians owning guns for protection.
While the police are extremely important in deterring crime, the police themselves know that even under the best of conditions they normally arrive on the scene after the crime has occurred and that having a gun is by far the safest course of action when you are confronted by a criminal. It is also the most vulnerable in our society — namely blacks who live in high-crime cities — who benefit the most from having the option to be able to defend themselves.
The victims of violent crimes are overwhelmingly poor blacks who live in urban areas. If you want to make people safer, you have to make it riskier for criminals to harm their victims. More police, better training, longer prison sentences, letting victims defend themselves are all things that research consistently shows that work. For some reason, the politicians who run so many of America’s cities think that the solution is the opposite. It is a prescription for disaster, and the most vulnerable among us will be the victims.
Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this piece read that officer Garrett Rolfe killed George Floyd, when it was Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. Garrett Rolfe was involved in the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. This has been corrected and we apologize for the error.