Sensible people laughed when they first heard calls to #DefundthePolice after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. No one should be laughing now.
Some of this city’s leading politicians are moving toward implementing versions of this dangerous concept, and ordinary Gothamites will pay the price.
While there is no statistical evidence of an epidemic of unjustified killings of blacks by cops, the Floyd incident did raise questions about racialized police misconduct. But discrete, sensible policing reforms to address that problem are one thing; dismantling and defunding police departments, quite another. The latter idea is downright absurd.
Initially, even many liberals claimed the radicals’ #Defund and #Abolish sloganeering was just that: sloganeering, not intended literally. Democrats said it was all about “reimagining” police work and better training — not actual cuts to departments.
But the momentum behind this crackpot idea has grown, as the radicals realized liberals weren’t serious about opposing them. The Democrats’ base buys the big lie that cops are a racist force that threatens the lives of every African American.
In New York, even before the #Defund movement got underway, crime rates were rising as a result of misguided bail “reform” enacted by the Legislature last year. The coronavirus pandemic compounded the difficulties of policing, what with Mayor Bill de Blasio emptying jails and deputizing the NYPD to shut down weddings and Hasidic funerals. Now add the violent protests and sheer anti-cop abuse tolerated — no, encouraged — by a hard-left political class.
But if you think all that’s bad, imagine what it will be like after Hizzoner and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson implement their plan to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s $6 billion budget. It would slash the ranks of the uniformed force by 1,163 officers. Overtime cuts won’t just reduce costs but also make it less likely that cops will be available when needed.
Looking to get ahead of the mob of protesters and pundits targeting his department, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea has already disbanded the 600-officer plainclothes anti-crime unit.
He blamed it for being involved in too many shooting cases. But since it was tasked with seeking out violent offenders, of course, such a unit would be involved in shootings. Shea was in effect offering a sacrifice to the BLM volcano, in the hopes that the rest of the force would be spared.
Predictably, that concession has had the opposite effect on the NYPD’s critics: It only whetted their appetites for more defunding and, worse, lent legitimacy to their anti-police rhetoric.
No wonder police retirements are spiking. Among the ranks of officers throwing in the towel was Deputy Inspector Richard Brea, commander of the 46th Precinct in The Bronx. He departed after blaming both the lack of political support and the cancellation of the anti-crime unit for the force’s problems.
Some of the arguments for cuts sound plausible. In addition to its routine wheelhouse of law enforcement, the NYPD has been asked to act as therapists to the mentally ill, provide school security and combat terrorism. In theory, some of that could be offloaded to other agencies. But when things go wrong, the cops will still be called to sort things out. New York’s Finest are still the best bet to deal with many routine crises.
Nor is it wise to pretend that New York is no longer a terror target, absolving the NYPD of the obligation to prepare for such threats with vital intelligence collecting.
Despite the happy-clappy talk about “reimagining” policing, defunding means exactly what it sounds like. What is being contemplated is the gutting of the NYPD in order to appease the radical mobs liberal politicians fear. That means the officers New Yorkers rely on to help them when the chips are down won’t be there when they are needed.
The result will be a New York City increasingly unlivable for ordinary citizens, especially poor people of color. Many are still under the impression that their elected officials care about keeping them, their loved ones and their property safe. Reality will soon awake them from their reverie.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org. Twitter at: @JonathanS_Tobin