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‘Defund the Police’ is a Political Dud, But Now What?

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Recent elections show “Defund the police” to be what I expected all along, a slogan better suited for the streets than the ballot box.

That’s just as well. Giving the boot to “Defund the police” — a motto that, like the even more radical “Abolish the police” slogan, came out of last year’s “summer of reckoning” — should open a path to more thoughtful, workable and desirable ideas that won’t leave communities feeling defenseless.

In Minneapolis, for example, voters rejected a measure that would have replaced the city’s police department with a Department of Public Safety. That initiative would have taken a “comprehensive public health approach” to law enforcement. Licensed peace officers would have been relied on only “if necessary.”

In Seattle, moderate candidates backed by the city’s downtown business community won nonpartisan races for mayor, city attorney and a key council race over liberal candidates who had called to defund the police.

In New York, retired police captain Eric Adams beat farther-left opponents in the liberal city’s mayor’s race despite his refusal to toe the progressive line on a variety of issues.

In Buffalo, incumbent Mayor Byron Brown pulled off an unprecedented write-in campaign victory to keep his seat after losing the Democratic primary to socialist India Walton, who had been backed by such noted Democrats as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

 

Although there is no election in violence-plagued Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered timely reassurance to new police graduates and newly promoted officers last month. She will “never yield” to the “defund” voices, she said, because the folks police Superintendent David Brown calls the “silent majority” overwhelmingly want more and better police protection.

Chicago is hardly alone in that sentiment. Nationwide, the share of adults who say spending on policing in their area should be increased grew to 47% last month from 31% in June 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pew noted that includes 21% who say funding for their local police should be increased “a lot,” up from 11% who said so last summer.

By race and ethnicity, white (49%) and Hispanic (46%) adults were more likely than Black (38%) and Asian (37%) adults to say spending should be increased.

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