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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

The Predictable Consequences of ‘Defund the Police’

Public Safety Policing, Crime Control

It took a spate of murders for the mayor of Oakland, Calif., to abandon the destructive slogan.

After a weekend in which three people were killed in Oakland, Calif., including a 1-year-old hit by a stray bullet while sleeping in the back seat of his mother’s car, Mayor Libby Schaaf finally reversed herself on defunding the police and pledged to hire more cops. But what took her so long?

Murder rose by nearly 30% last year, and Americans have been making it as clear as can be that they want more and better policing. The incoming mayors of Atlanta, New York and Seattle ran campaigns that prioritized public safety. A ballot initiative in Minneapolis that would have dismantled the police department was defeated soundly, and some of the strongest opposition came from low-income black communities. “Black lives need to be valued not just when unjustly taken by the police, but when we are alive and demanding our right to be heard, to breathe, to live in safe neighborhoods and to enjoy the full benefits of our status as American citizens,” explained a civil-rights activist from Minneapolis in a New York Times op-ed.

We are reminded almost weekly of the tragic failure of bail reform and other soft-on-crime initiatives that have frustrated the efforts of police, prosecutors and judges to keep suspects with long criminal records off the streets. The man charged with driving his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., last month, killing six, had been released five days earlier on $1,000 bail in another violent felony case. The man charged last week in the fatal shooting of a music producer’s 81-year-old wife in her Beverly Hills, Calif., home is a career criminal who was out on parole. The suspect in the stabbing death of a Columbia University graduate student last week is a convicted felon and gang member who has been arrested 11 times since 2012, according to the New York Post.

Carjackings have become so commonplace in Washington that the local ABC affiliate is now offering viewers tips on how to protect themselves. Chicago and California have effectively decriminalized retail theft by raising the threshold for felony shoplifting. The result has been a rise in smash-and-grab robberies and store closures. There were 11 such incidents in and around Los Angeles between Nov. 18 and 28 alone, resulting in nearly $340,000 worth of stolen goods. Although 14 people were arrested, “all of the suspects taken into custody are now out of custody,” Michel Moore, the city’s police chief, told reporters. His hands are tied by a “zero bail” policy for misdemeanors and low-level felonies that is meant to reduce overcrowding in Los Angeles County jails.

Sadly, the streets aren’t the only places that have become more dangerous of late. The progressive war on law enforcement has also affected school safety. Following the death of George Floyd and subsequent nationwide protests, school districts from Minneapolis to Denver and Portland, Ore., moved to reduce or sever ties with police. In New York, where school safety officers are being phased out, 38 weapons were recovered over a three-day period from a high-school campus in Brooklyn earlier this month. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s largest after New York, voted in February to pare down the number of school police officers by about 40%. In the aftermath, Larry Sand reports in City Journal, “108 assaults took place between August and October of this year, with 16 students requiring hospitalization. Police sources add that 44 weapons were recovered, including five handguns and 32 knives.”

Teachers who are constantly dealing with disruptive students can’t teach. And students who are worried about getting beat up can’t focus on learning. A disregard for safety exacerbates the racial achievement gap in school just as surely at it hampers upward mobility outside the classroom. If liberals such as Ms. Schaaf have finally realized the foolishness of putting their social-justice activism ahead of basic public safety, bully for them. But it shouldn’t have taken the senseless death of a toddler to change the mayor’s mind.

Thanks to the left’s indulgence of Black Lives Matter activism, cities are having trouble retaining and recruiting cops. Early retirements have increased, and the job has become more dangerous. Attacks on police officers have risen, and the FBI reports that the number of police officers killed in the line of duty between January and September was up by more than 50% over the same period in 2020. By pretending that the police are a bigger threat to society than the criminals, progressive policies are making the country demonstrably less safe than it’s been in decades. Hopefully, more liberals will pay a political price for what they’ve unleashed. Until then, we’ll all be paying.

This piece originally appeared at The Wall Street Journal


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal