GOP Viewpoint: Defund or Reform?

The murder of George Floyd by a White officer has not only given rise to protests (and riots, looting, and burning businesses) but to the BLM’s assignation of massive institutional racism in police departments. This narrative has been picked up by the media and broadcast incessantly, but is it true? Data doesn’t support it.

Of 375 million police interactions with the public in 2019, and 10 million arrests, nine unarmed Black men were killed. That is nine men too many. But institutional racism disappeared with the end of segregation laws. There are definitely bad apples in every profession, including police, teachers, medicine, etc. Do we defund teachers? Do we stop paying doctors? Do we defund the police? Do we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Recent events show the need for reform. The President’s Executive Order seeks to improve policing and remove some of the likelihood of rogue behavior. Senate Republicans are formulating a bill regulating the use of chokeholds, requiring specialized training on bias and use of force, and transparency. Under consideration is banning fired police officers from being reinstated later on or moving to another precinct, and reforming police union power.

Now most complaints against a rogue officer are protected by their union, with a lengthy and arduous process to solve a problem. Derek Chauvin had 18 complaints against him, some of them frivolous, but others were serious. Thanks to the police union, he was still on the force. Also under consideration is removing responsibilities from the police that have nothing to do with crime or public safety. Perhaps mental health and homeless issues are better left to professionals in those fields. And why were the cops arresting Eric Gardner for selling an untaxed cigarette? Are police officers now tax enforcers?

Police officers do a desperately needed and oftentimes dangerous job. Ridgefield will never defund them, but there are calls to do so in many big cities. What then? After the Ferguson incident in 2014, police in many big cities backed off. The result: Milwaukee saw a 72 percent increase in homicides and in Cleveland it was 90 percent. Murders in Nashville rose 83 percent and Chicago shootings were up 80 percent through March 2016. And these were in mainly Black neighborhoods. Is it any wonder that residents of high crime districts plead for more, not less, police presence?

A YouGov poll found that 84 percent of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, oppose defunding the police. We understand that defunding means to demolish and that puts all of civil society at risk of chaos and crime. Antifa and other radical anarchist groups hope for just that. All civilized people of every race, religion, or ethnicity want to live and raise their children in a peaceful environment. Let’s support our police, support reforms where needed, and turn our backs on radicals who use the excuse of a few unacceptable actions to take our entire country down.

This column is provided by the Ridgefield Republican Town Committee.