It’s been one year since last summer’s George Floyd demonstrations took over America’s cities, and in these last 12 months, police officers have left those respective cities’ police forces in droves. Some were forced out due to budget cuts while others are voluntarily retiring or moving to neighboring police departments. The city of Seattle has lost more than 260 officers in the last 18 months, nearly 20 percent of the entire force.
Not surprisingly, the exodus of police officers has corresponded with a surge in crime. In 2020, Seattle diverted almost 20 percent from its police budget and saw a 61 percent increase in homicides, the highest number in 26 years.
This correlation is certainly not limited to the Rain City. Major cities across the country, where feckless mayors and extremist city councils have hacked away at police budgets, have experienced increases in violent crime and soaring 911 response times. The far left’s “defund the police” agenda is doing nothing to combat so-called systemic racism and is instead endangering cities, with the most devastating effects among minority communities in inner-city neighborhoods. The White House is blaming guns for the uptick in violence, sidelining Democrats’ responsibility for their anti-police rhetoric and refusal to oppose leftist political violence in the past year.
Seattle’s war on its police force erupted out of nowhere last June. In 2018, the mayor’s office praised the Seattle Police Department as “one of the leading departments in our nation” with “advanced best practices in crisis intervention and tactical de-escalation.” In August that year, the Seattle Council unanimously confirmed Carmen Best as police chief, making her the first black woman in Seattle’s history to serve in the role.
Ahead of the 2019 holiday season, Best and Mayor Jenny Durkan jointly announced a 20 percent increase in winter patrols to “enhance public safety for Seattle residents and visitors.” As recently as February 2020, Durkan lauded Seattle’s Police Department as having “hired the highest percentage of people of color in its history.”
Then within days of Floyd’s death, Durkan and leftist council members were already turning the tables on their own police department. Weeks of riots and clashes with police resulted in the expulsion of the Seattle Police Department from the East Precinct at the direction of Durkan herself, the barricading of a six-block area of the downtown Capitol Hill neighborhood, and the establishment of the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (“CHAZ”, subsequently renamed “CHOP”).
Durkan humiliated herself by insisting that the unlawful occupation was really just a “block party” and that the occupiers were in fact patriots. When President Trump justifiably called on both Gov. Jay Inslee and the mayor to stand up to the anarchists and restore law and order, Durkan ludicrously tweeted that Seattle was “fine” and not to be “so afraid of democracy.”
As Durkan’s “summer of love” unfolded, her warped view of the democratic process entailed multiple shootings, two homicides (both victims were black teenagers), one attempted rape of a deaf woman, and extensive property damage within CHOP. Black Lives Matter thugs spent weeks holding the city hostage to an egregious list of demands by marauding neighborhoods, intimidating residents and public officer holders, and defacing public property. Residents in the police chief’s own neighborhood were targeted by aggressive demonstrators.
Amidst this pressure, and due to the total lack of consultation that preceded police department budget cuts, Best resigned, the first of many police officers to protest the city’s lack of support. Most disturbing is the frustration expressed by Best, and conveyed in the interview with CBS, that city leaders are interfering with the police department’s responsibility to provide for adequate public safety.
In addition to the spike in murders and a 36 percent increase in shooting victims, three-quarters of whom were people of color, 911 response times are revealing a disturbing trend. Average response time for priority 1 and 2 emergencies, including homicides, robberies, and assaults, more than doubled last summer.
Although response times fell somewhat for the remainder of 2020, they have been steadily climbing during the first quarter of 2021. Median response times across all five police precincts for both priority 1 and 2 emergencies remain above those reported in 2019. Residents inconvenienced by break-ins have had to wait even longer.
Outside of Seattle, the call to defund, reimagine, and abolish the police is having a similarly disastrous impact. The data is overwhelming in cities where leftist councils caved to social and political pressure and arbitrarily defunded police departments.
The Minneapolis City Council kicked things off by cutting almost $8 million from the policing budget, an improvement on its original unanimously approved proposal to eliminate the city’s police department. Minneapolis saw a 105 percent increase in shootings, a 70 percent increase in homicides, a 537 percent increase in violent carjackings, and lagging emergency response times in 2020. Within a few months the city decided to cough up $6.4 million to hire more police officers.
New York City slashed a massive $1 billion from its police budget and saw a 97 percent increase in shootings. Portland took a $16 million slice out of its police budget and so far in 2021 has seen the homicide rate soar by a whopping 1,900 percent compared with the same period in 2020. Portlanders have become increasingly frustrated by slow and unreliable responses to 911 calls.
Despite the “anti-racism” rhetoric, defunding the police mostly hurts black and minority Americans in vulnerable, urban neighborhoods, where criminal violence is already the main problem. Black Americans between the ages of ten and 43 die of homicide at 13 times the rate of white Americans. Carving out millions from police budgets means fewer officers, less police presence, longer wait times, and less training.
Not surprisingly then, defunding the police lacks popular support among minorities. A Gallup poll found that 81 percent of black people and 83 percent of Hispanics want to retain or increase local police presence. A Huffington Post survey similarly found that defunding the police has poor public support across all demographics.
Presumably, Americans of all ages, races, and political persuasions are not on board with local law enforcement being outsourced to private security firms, rival gangs, and domestic terror groups, which is inevitably what happens when the government cannot or will not perform the crucial function of safeguarding the safety of its citizens.
Every day people implicitly understand what German sociologist Max Weber was getting at when he identified the state as claiming the “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” If not, the state cannot play its role as enforcer of law and order, which impedes basic public services as well as the regulation of economic activity. The condition that emerges is anarchy.
Certainly, it seems extraordinary that Democrats at all levels of government would persist in undermining law enforcement when these radical and unpopular policies are ruining cities, exacerbating violent crime, facilitating Bolshevik-style terror and destruction, and worsening conditions for blacks and minorities. Whatever their motives, mayors and city councils in places like Seattle that continue their ideological war on police are ruining iconic cities and betraying the residents they were elected to serve and protect.