Will the uproar over the killing of George Floyd ultimately be viewed by history as an inflection point on public opinion and reform efforts, or a bright, hot flash in the pan? Early evidence suggests that it may be the former. Compared to previous incidents, voters appear to be more dialed in and more offended by what they've seen in this case, resulting in polling outcomes like this:
YES, police are more likely to use excessive force against African Americans:— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) June 8, 2020
***post-Eric Garner (2014): 33% of Americans, 26% of whites
***post-George Floyd (2020): 57% of Americans, 49% of whites
This is the ground shifting beneath us in real time.https://t.co/wndq8pdJOG
Meanwhile, as top Democrats are more or less pleading with their left flank to drop the self-defeating and radical "defund the police" idiocy, which even Joe Biden had the sense to reject immediately, some contours of potential legislative reforms are starting to take shape:
House @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy identified three possible points of common ground with Dems: raising the level of officer training by linking training standards to federal money, requiring more transparency about misconduct allegations, and making it easier to remove bad officers https://t.co/KwnNuxVRhq— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) June 9, 2020
That last item on the list might require weakening public sector unions, so we'll see if Democrats are willing to spear that sacred cow in the name of social justice. Don't count on it. Altering or eliminating so-called "qualified immunity" also appears to be gaining momentum in some quarters. A cynic might be excused for wondering if Democrats would prefer to campaign on police reforms, rather than compromising with Republicans on consensus legislation before the election. Keeping the issue live and raw through November, with the alluring prospect of winning a sweeping victory and enacting purely partisan policies with new majorities, may prove irresistible. Internal Republican divisions could also make inaction more likely. We'll watch and see.
One of the ways lefties are trying to pivot away from "defund the police" is to pretend that "defund" simply means "reinvent" or "transfer part of police budgets to community organizations." But that's not what the word means, and even advocates of police reform -- including yours truly -- should be wary of proposals that would cut the number of police on the beat:
One of the most replicated findings in criminology in the past thirty years is that more police means less crime https://t.co/gCJvsLuqYV— Charles Fain Lehman (@CharlesFLehman) June 9, 2020
Let's not throw out everything we've learned over centuries of policing in the heat of the moment. The priority should be better and more just law enforcement, not necessarily less law enforcement. Relatedly, as Ed Morrissey notes, even despite a significant sea change in public opinion on some relevant issues, police are still viewed favorably by most Americans -- and a new Washington Post poll shows that one major critique of the police is that they were too timid in dealing with violence, rioting and looting:
An overall plurality of 47% believe police didn’t use enough force on violent actors, with only 16% believing they used too much and 34% “about right.” Few demographics thought police used too much force on rioters and looters, but almost every demo thought they didn’t use enough — except Democrats, who split 37% “about right,” 36% not enough force, and 24% too much force.
And this was from a few days ago:
NPR-Marist poll:— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) June 5, 2020
56% of registered voters believe police behaving appropriately or not aggressively enough
Only 34% believe police too aggressive.
In the WaPo numbers, just 16 percent of Americans think the cops were too rough on the rioters which almost perfectly parallels the percentage of Americans also support defunding or slashing budgets from the police. It's a fringe. The overwhelming majority of the country wants order in the streets and laws enforced, even if some tactics and accountability metrics need to be reconsidered. For example, what the hell was this about? Who specifically ordered it at state command, and why?
Some protesters, news crews, and medics in Minneapolis found themselves stranded after recent protests: The tires of their cars had been slashed.— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) June 8, 2020
Many assumed protesters were to blame. But videos reveal a different culprit: the police. https://t.co/SGYS5nXPFq pic.twitter.com/HH6uygLgoI
I'll leave you with more terrible reminders of why allowing violent and destructive civil unrest to go unchecked, as authorities in some cities did for several nights, can have devastating consequences to vulnerable communities in places like Chicago and Minneapolis. And this sort of outrageous criminal activity isn't going to fly, and the media would be wise to stop calling people who do this sort of thing "protesters:"
Three people tracked officers to their homes and set their police cars on fire, authorities say: https://t.co/iNjFkFWENl— Kristen Holloway (@KHollowayWSB) June 4, 2020
We actually spoke with one of them a few days earlier at a protest in Gwinnett County. I’m live with the story next at 6am. @wsbtv