Key Democrats on Sunday tamped down expectations of the “defund police” movement but said there will need to be a reexamination of how money is spent, as they prepared to announce a major piece of legislation designed to set national standards for how state and local police can operate.
The defund police movement has picked up steam on the political left in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and a series of encounters between police and protesters over the ensuing two weeks that left much of the country demanding changes.
At the epicenter of unrest in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey was booed at a rally over the weekend for rejecting calls to wipe out the city’s police department. However on Sunday, a supermajority of members of the Minneapolis City Council committed themselves at a rally to doing exactly that.
Eight members, enough to override a Frey veto, vowed in a statement read to the demonstrators to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department,” saying the department “cannot be reformed, and will never be accountable for its actions.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed himself and said Sunday that he will pursue cuts in police funding.
“We’re committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services, that will happen literally in the course of the next three weeks, but I’m not going to go into detail because it is subject to negotiation and we want to figure out what makes sense,” the mayor said, according to The New York Times.
In Washington, two senior black Democrats, House Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass of California, acknowledged the growing movement but said defunding is not on the table when Democrats reveal their police reform bill Monday.
“I don’t believe that you should disband police departments. But I do think that, in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities,” Ms. Bass told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
The bill they will announce, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, will set standards for how officers should react to protests, will ban use of chokeholds and will remove officers’ immunity from personal lawsuits over damages caused by their policing.
Asked about the defund police movement, Mr. Jeffries said he had not seen a plan he would back. He said Democrats can resist the pressure from the left, just as they did last year when liberal activists demanded abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But Mr. Jeffries was optimistic about approval of the other reforms including the ban on chokeholds, which he has advocated for years.
“We obviously have a serious problem,” Mr. Jeffries told CNN’s “Inside Politics.” “We cannot deny that we have far too many brutal officers, far too many violent officers, far too many abusive officers, and we have to address that phenomenon.”
President Trump took to Twitter to feed the battle over defunding police within Democratic circles. He predicted his likely Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, will side with “radical left Democrats” in stripping money from departments.
“I want great and well paid LAW ENFORCEMENT. I want LAW & ORDER!” the president said, with his characteristic flourish for capital letters and exclamation points.
The nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General William Barr, said from his standpoint there isn’t systemic racism in policing and most officers are doing their jobs correctly.
“I think there is racism in the United States still, but I don’t think the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Mr. Barr said. “I understand the distrust, however, of the African American community given the history in this country.”
He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that removing officers’ immunity, the centerpiece of Democrats’ expected legislation, would hinder law enforcement and “result certainly in police pulling back.”
Michael Avery, board president of the National Police Accountability Project, a nonprofit that advocates against police misconduct, said police have faced other times of distrust, including the late 1960s, the early 1990s after video of Los Angeles police beating Rodney King, and half a decade ago after the shooting death of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Of course in the 1960s there was a great deal of concern about police, but it would blow over after a while,” Mr. Avery told The Washington Times. “In the 50 years I’ve been a civil rights lawyer, I’ve never seen the concern stick the way it is now. It is not going away this time.”
He said defunding police departments is unrealistic but their budgets should be scoured.
“To the extent the police are buying little tanks, robots and incredible weapons and things of that sort, I would cut that way back,” he said, emphasizing he was speaking for himself and not his organization. “But I don’t think current concerns will be solved by defunding the police.”
He said solving a systemic problem will take time and determining whether changes are working might take decades.
“There is no quick fix because these problems and systemic and rooted in our society,” Mr. Avery said. “None of these things can be accomplished overnight, but departments have to signal they are interested in change.”
To send those signals, he said, departments could commit to more civilian oversight of police forces and increase transparency. Ensuring body cameras are working at all times and being more open to misconduct investigations would be a start, he said.
Officers must also improve their relationships with the communities they serve, said Richard Pozniak, who teaches crisis communications and lectures at police academies on maintaining a good reputation. He called for more social interaction between law enforcement and citizens. As examples, he said officers could introduce themselves and engage residents in polite conversation.
He also called for more stringent screening of recruits, including scrutiny of their mental health and their professional careers.
Protests during the past couple of weeks have exposed a willingness of some to take the fight straight to the police.
In Brooklyn, three officers were stabbed in a knife attack last week. At least five police officers were shot in St. Louis, and a federal officer was killed in Oakland, California, during early stages of the rioting.
Mr. Pozniak said the attacks illustrate the reputation crisis facing law enforcement. “Any police chief or law enforcement officer who doesn’t think their local department is impacted by what happened in Minneapolis is in complete denial,” he said.
Mr. Pozniak called the idea of eliminating departments “out of the box thinking, but it is so far-fetched, that it will never come into the sphere of reality.”
“Doing away with the traditional American police force in favor of the British bobby will not work in a country consumed with handguns and committing crimes against merchants,” he said.
He said he believes police can emerge better and more respected, but it will take work and substantial reform.
“I don’t think the trust is totally gone, but it is in bad shape,” he said.
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Al Sharpton rips Defund the Police movement as ‘something a latte liberal may go for’
MSNBC host Al Sharpton declared Tuesday that defunding the police is an idea only a “latte liberal” could support. During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the National Action Network founder said New York City’s poorer communities are in need of more policing, not less. “We’ve always heard about the tale of two cities,” Mr.…
MSNBC host Al Sharpton declared Tuesday that defunding the police is an idea only a “latte liberal” could support.
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the National Action Network founder said New York City’s poorer communities are in need of more policing, not less.
“We’ve always heard about the tale of two cities,” Mr. Sharpton said. “On the side of the city that I come from, which is Blacker and poorer, we’ve seen more in terms of gun usage. I got a lot of attention when I did the eulogy for George Floyd’s funeral, but I also, a month later, preached a 1-year-old kid’s funeral in Brooklyn who was killed by a stray bullet.”
“On the ground it is certainly feeling more violent, feeling more unsafe in unsafe communities,” he said.
Mr. Scarborough then brought up the “defund the police” movement, and whether recently cutting $1 billion from the New York Police Department’s police budget had disproportionately impacted people of color.
“We need to reimagine how we do policing,” Mr. Sharpton responded. “But to take all policing off is something that, I think, a latte liberal may go for as they sit around the Hamptons discussing this as some academic problem. But people living on the ground need proper policing.
“Yes, we need more resources in different areas like mental health, but we do not need our grandmothers [to be] prey to those that are being the users of products of the big gun manufacturers in this country,” he added.
Sharpton: Defunding the NYPD is “something a Latte Liberal may go for as they sit around the Hamptons discussing this as an academic problem. But people living on the ground need proper policing.” pic.twitter.com/TkXnVgUBEq
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 8, 2020
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Democrats bring ‘Defund’ movement to Capitol Police
Democrats from Seattle to New York are working to cut their police budgets, but not on Capitol Hill, where the House — controlled by Democrats — is moving ahead with a budget that freezes but doesn’t trim any funding for the U.S. Capitol Police. Instead, Democrats are demanding new training and more accountability, ordering the…
Democrats from Seattle to New York are working to cut their police budgets, but not on Capitol Hill, where the House — controlled by Democrats — is moving ahead with a budget that freezes but doesn’t trim any funding for the U.S. Capitol Police.
Instead, Democrats are demanding new training and more accountability, ordering the department to study whether it’s policing too far beyond the Capitol, to release better arrest statistics, and to do a better job communicating with the public.
Republicans gleefully pointed to the full funding as as a vote of confidence in police amid the ongoing debate over policing and race.
“The bill recognizes their service and sacrifice by ensuring they have the resources they need to continue to keep the complex safe,” said Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
Activists, though, saw the budget freeze as a first swipe at a department that’s tripled over the last two decades, and they cheered the new accountability provisions, which were tucked into a report accompanying the bill.
“This is what we asked for. These are all things they should be doing. The Capitol Police for a very long time have operated under a cloak of secrecy,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “The goal isn’t to cut their funding or to increase their funding. It’s about making sure the Capitol complex is safe for democracy to take place.”
The funding, which is included in a broader bill to fund Congress’s operations next year, cleared its first big step Friday, gaining approval in the House Appropriations Committee on a 30-18 vote.
Republicans voted against the measure while Democrats, including some of the party’s most liberal members, backed it.
They cheered some of the non-police provisions such as language that would give illegal immigrant “Dreamers” permission to work, for pay, in the halls of Congress. Currently they are barred because, despite DACA’s grant of work permits, they don’t have a path to citizenship, which is required under the law for someone to work on Capitol Hill.
Democrats also gloated over language that would order the removal of statues of figures from the Confederacy and others Democrats said are too tainted to be allowed to remain in the halls of Congress, such as former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the Dred Scott decision that ruled the Constitution didn’t envision citizenship for Africans or their descendants.
“I hope that this action will begin a larger conversation we need to have about other statues in the Capitol,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat who chairs the House’s legislative appropriations subcommittee and who sponsored the bill.
The only Democrat to mention the policing issue during Friday’s committee meeting was Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat who complained that the Capitol Police had their collective bargaining agreement suspended during coronavirus, and he urged that situation be corrected.
The Washington Times reached out to a local Black Lives Matter organization and several others who have backed the “Defund Police” movement but none responded to inquiries about the bill’s funding decisions.
The $464.3 million included for police makes up about a tenth of the overall legislative branch spending bill. That’s 11% less than the $516.7 million the department requested,
Mr. Ryan did boost the pool of money going to salaries by $16.7 million, ensuring the department won’t have to cut any officers, but he cut that same amount from other expenses such as new vehicles, communications equipment and training.
Police Chief Steven A. Sund had asked for an increase in order to carry out plans to update the obsolete campus-wide alert system put in place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and to make other technology and equipment upgrades.
The new bill does include money for the updated alert system.
The Senate, controlled by Republicans, will produce its own version of the bill, which may be more generous to the department’s full request. A compromise bill will eventually have to be hammered out.
But lawmakers in both parties are looking for places to make new changes, and the spending process is a likely battleground. Beyond the Capitol Police, Congress controls funding for the FBI, ICE, the Border Patrol and other major federal law enforcement agencies, and it controls billions of dollars in grant money that can be used to push states and localities in a new direction.
The Capitol Police force totals 2,300 officers and civilians, meaning it’s twice the size of the police department in Minneapolis, where the death of a black man, George Floyd, sparked the new debate over race and police accountability.
Its budget and staffing soared in recent years, with major realignments after the 1998 deaths of two officers at the hands of a gunman who gained access to the Capitol, and again after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
But even in more recent times the money has poured in. In 2017, the department’s budget was $393.3 million, rising to $426.5 million in next year, $456.3 million in 2019 and the current $464.3 million level.
Among the changes House Democrats proposed are making the department have to respond to public information requests.
Because it is part of the legislative branch it’s exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, the federal law that governs requests to executive agencies. But the bill orders the department to come up with a FOIA-like system so the public can get information.
Democrats also demanded reports on steps the department takes to promote hiring of “underrepresented groups” and on what sorts of training exist to prevent racial profiling.
Mr. Schuman said it doesn’t generally make sense to compare the job of the Capitol Police to a local department — though the Capitol’s force has increasingly expanded its jurisdiction, and patrols not just the Capitol grounds but a large perimeter beyond the House and Senate footprint, including Union Station.
“A lot of their arrests are for nonsense,” Mr. Schuman said. “Somebody smoking pot on their doorstep 10 blocks from the Capitol, the Capitol Police should leave them alone.”
The new bill orders the department to report back on how much of its policing happens “beyond USCP’s primary and extended jurisdictions.”
“They’re making a real effort to grapple with the questions of who are the Capitol Police, what is their mission, how are they accomplishing it and are their resources an appropriate fit for what they’re supposed to be doing,” Mr. Schuman said.
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‘Defund police’ movement hurts recruitment, effort to change culture, experts warn
Racial justice activists are cheering the huge budget cuts to police departments across the country, though officers say the downsizing hurts one of the most effective means of changing police culture: Recruiting a new generation of officers. Police departments already were having trouble retaining and recruiting police officers before the death of George Floyd divided…
Racial justice activists are cheering the huge budget cuts to police departments across the country, though officers say the downsizing hurts one of the most effective means of changing police culture: Recruiting a new generation of officers.
Police departments already were having trouble retaining and recruiting police officers before the death of George Floyd divided the nation over the role of law enforcement officers and spurred calls to defund the police.
“If you want diversity, if you want quality candidates, you have to go out and find those candidates. That costs money,” said Sgt. Matt Cobb, who oversees recruiting for the Topeka, Kansas, Police Department. “If we don’t have the money to recruit people, then how do we fix the things people have said about us?”
The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) reported last year that 63% of departments nationwide saw a decrease in applications over the past five years. More than half of those departments described the decrease as significant.
Applications to join the Nashville Police Department dropped from 4,700 in 2010 to 1,900 by 2018, according to PERF. The Seattle Police Department reported a 40-50% decrease in applications during the same period, and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado said its applications have fallen by 70%.
The drop in applications comes as officers are leaving the profession faster than ever before, according to PERF. Roughly 8.5% of officers are eligible for retirement now and another 15.5% will become eligible within five years — nearly one-quarter of the force combined.
That rate is expected to increase in the aftermath of Floyd’s death on May 25 as a White Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.
With massive anti-police protests across the country, several departments suffered mass resignations as officers walked off the job because they no longer felt they had the support of the community and/or their city’s political leaders.
“It has been a struggle for departments over the past decade because of the low unemployment,” said Sam Blonder, CEO of EPIC Recruiting, an agency that recruits on behalf of local police departments.
“There are plenty of jobs out there that required less training and less commitment,” he continued. “It has been a struggle for departments and I don’t see that changing with recent events.”
The calls to defund police found a receptive audience in city halls.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio yanked $1 billion from the NYPD and transferred it to youth and community services. As part of the cuts, he implemented a hiring freeze and canceled the next two police academy classes for a savings of about $50 million.
The city council in Rochester, New York, approved a 50% reduction in its department’s budget and slashed its recruiting class in half.
Those cuts are misguided, experts warn. They say it forces police departments to back away from diverse candidates that can forge a connection with the minority communities that fear police after several high-profile deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement.
Charles P. Wilson, chairman of the National of Black Law Enforcement Officers, said recruiting quality candidates is critical to changing what he says is a culture of systemic racism in policing.
“Part of it is who you hire, how you hire, and the way you hire,” Mr. Wilson said. “If you are not screening candidates for their conscious bias, culture diversity, attitudes towards social interaction and conflict management, things won’t change.”
“These are issues that have a direct connection towards the excessive use of force,” he continued. “You will invariably get someone who doesn’t like Black folks if you don’t screen properly for them.”
Democrat lawmakers who’ve championed the budget cuts argue that the budget cuts won’t affect recruiting. Instead, they say, changes to police practices will make the job more attractive to minority candidates.
“Once you purge the police departments, add accountability and the duty to intervene, I think you will see more people willing to take on that noble profession because it’s now regained its nobleness,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, Louisiana Democrat, said at a press conference Wednesday. “I don’t think [the cuts] will be a hindrance to hiring good police officers.”
Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said the changes in policing brought on by the cuts will make the job more attractive to Black candidates.
“I think more Black people will become police officers if and when we upgrade the profession,” the California Democrat said.
Mr. Blonder compared police recruitment to advertising campaigns, saying departments’ marketing messages must connect with the type of candidate they want to attract.
“Departments that have the right messaging out there will attract quality people,” he said.
But such overtures cost money. Mr. Cobb said he’s traveled all over the country to recruit candidates, including trips to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Recruitment trip costs can add up pretty quickly, he said. Departments are paying the recruiting officers a salary and benefits along with the travel expenses such as transportation costs and hotel rooms.
“I look at it as a return on investment,” Mr. Cobb said. “A trip to a college may cost $2,000, but if I can hire five candidates ready to start the academy, that’s a pretty good return on investment.”
Mr. Cobb did not offer any suggestions on where local governments could look for cuts instead of putting recruiting on the chopping block. He said such decisions should be up to each community.
“It is hard for me to say ‘here is a list of things I think should be cut from the budget,”’ he said. “Each community is going to have to decide what they want their police force to look like.”
Recruiters said it is too soon to know if today’s political climate and anti-police media coverage have soured young people on a career in policing. The impact of the defund police movement may not be known for several months, they say.
Still, recruiters say they haven’t changed their pitch to attract new candidates.
“The stuff we are doing now had been set up before a lot of the things that have taken place in the past couple of weeks,” Mr. Cobb said. “We haven’t made any knee-jerk changes.”
Mr. Blonder said he doesn’t expect police departments to change their overtures to new candidates. He said departments were already seeking diverse hires who are open to the type of community policing politicians are calling for in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death.
“I think the restrictions to departments’ budgets will have an impact on recruiting, but it won’t change the messaging,” he said.
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