As supporters of our nation’s law enforcement officers kick off this year’s commemoration of National Police Week, radicals continue to urge demobilization and defunding of police. But a new study shows a clear connection – when policing is reduced, violent crime soars. For those who insist on “following the science,” the evidence is in and the proper policy response is clear: We need more, not less, respect, and funding, for law enforcement efforts.
Last year, the United States saw more than 20,000 murders. That’s a 25 percent increase over the year before, and the highest number since 1995.
What’s behind the dramatic increase in violent crime?
A revealing new study from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund provides a clear answer: Reductions in policing. Granted, this is about as dog-bites-man as studies can get (what’s next? Water is wet?), but it’s 2021, and some people still have not figured out how the world works.
The study tracked crime rates in ten major cities following the unrest of May and June 2020 that was inspired by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota. In each of the cities, police officers dialed down enforcement efforts in the wake of protests. And when they backed off -- with 2020 national arrests dropping by a third -- crime went up.
In New York City, for instance, police backed off in the wake of the George Floyd-inspired protests. Arrests between June and December last year were down by 45,000 compared to a year before, while murders increased by more than 100. That’s a 38 percent reduction in arrests, compared to a 58 percent hike in murders.
From June 2020 through February 2021, police in Chicago made 31,000 fewer arrests – a 53 percent decline – even as murders rose by 65 percent. In Louisville, murders spiked by 87 percent, while arrests fell by 38 percent compared to a year earlier. St. Louis hit a 50-year high for its murder rate, while Milwaukee – which cut 120 police officers from its force – saw the murder rate almost double, jumping by 98 percent.
Philadelphia’s murder rate jumped to a 30-year high, with 500 victims. And in Portland, where violent protests predated Floyd’s death, Mayor Ted Wheeler cut the police budget by $12 million, and disbanded the “gun violence” squad. The result? Shootings rose by an extraordinary 173 percent, while murders rose by a remarkable 255 percent. Wheeler is now restoring funding and reestablishing the gun violence squad.
It’s not just defunding that’s leading to a reduction in policing, it’s a matter of demoralization, too. Add in reductions in prosecutions by progressive district attorneys seeking to placate radicalized public opinion, and you have a toxic cocktail that results in spikes in violent crime.
“The message from a new wave of progressive prosecutors is clear: making arrests for drug and weapons crimes that will go unprosecuted exposes officers to the risk of disciplinary action, lawsuits and criminal prosecution,” says Jason Johnson, the former deputy police commissioner of Baltimore, now serving as president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund. “To mitigate that risk, police take a more passive approach.”
And that “more passive approach” leads to more violent crime.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took a different tack. Last September, he introduced the “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” to protect law enforcement and prevent demonstrations and protests from turning into rioting and looting. He signed that bill into law last month. And just last week, he announced a $1,000 bonus to be given to 174,000 Florida first responders, including police.
“Some want to defund the police,” said DeSantis. “We’re funding the police and then some.”
The funding will come from coronavirus relief funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress and distributed to the states.
Fifty-nine years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week in which it falls as Police Week. Though the coronavirus pandemic has forced in-person events this year to be delayed until October, virtual events this week will honor the thousands of peace officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. As those events take place, we would all do well to take a moment to thank our brothers and sisters in blue – and to make sure their departments are fully staffed and properly funded.
Jenny Beth Martin is honorary chairman of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.