Republicans campaigned this year by scaring Americans into thinking Democrats would “defund the police” and unleash a crime spree. What are they doing to celebrate victories in congressional races? They’re defunding the police — as violent crime surges, writes Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. GOP leaders this week defeated efforts to help states and cities that are facing cutbacks to public safety and other services because of the pandemic-caused budget crisis. They said this would amount to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called a “blue state bailout.” In reality, it was more of a “blue bailout,” with police in blue and red states alike now on the chopping block, Milbank says. “Despite the clear evidence that shrinking revenue in cities across the country is leading to job loss and the reduction of critical services like public safety,” the U.S. Conference of Mayors protested, “Congress chose to turn its back on first responders, police, firefighters and other essential workers.”
In large part because of the federal refusal to help, localities are involuntarily defunding the police. Dayton, Oh., is no longer planning to hire a new class of police and plans a reduction in police jobs. This week, 12 local Georgia officials wrote the state’s two senators (who face runoff elections) to say the COVID-19 package “fails to provide vital funds for essential workers in local governments: workers like teachers, firefighters and law enforcement.” Oakland, Ca., is cutting “$20 million in public safety expenditure.” Los Angeles has been wrestling with possible cuts of 600 officers. The city is reducing policing not, primarily, because of “defund” activists but because the city is broke. Jurisdictions from sprawling Dallas to little Hazelton, Pa., have moved toward reducing police pay and overtime. A Police Executive Research Forum study found that, of 258 police agencies, 48 percent expected budget cuts or had dealt with them.