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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Police Reform

At Divided We Fall, Michael Javen Fortner writes:
“This concerted nationwide attack on police is nothing less than the gravest assault on the rule of law in modern times,” U.S. Senator Tom Cotton blared a few months ago. In a partisan broadside, he added, “The simple fact is that today’s Democrat Party is pro-riot, anti-cop, and anti-prosecutor. Democrats today have more sympathy for violent criminals than for innocent victims.” When former Democratic President Barack Obama dubbed “defund the police” a counterproductive “snappy” slogan, U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush responded, “With all due respect, Mr. President – let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence.” She pressed, “It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police.” There we have it: a debate where one end of the ideological spectrum considers police reform an existential threat to the rule of law and where the other end sees law enforcement as an existential threat to Black life. Like with so many issues today, these extremes do not represent the bipartisan, cross-racial consensus that exists among the American people.

In California, 75% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans say “more jobs and economic opportunity” would prevent violent crime. Overwhelming numbers of Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians felt similarly. Nearly 80% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans believe “more mental health and treatment services would reduce violent crime,” a view also shared across racial groups. These positions are not unique to liberal California. In the national Washington Post-ABC news poll, the majority of Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics believe that having social workers “help police defuse situations with people having emotional problems” would reduce violence somewhat or by a lot. However, his issue was divisive among party lines: 83% of Democrats say it would reduce violence somewhat or by a lot while 54% of Republicans said it would not reduce crime. There was more consensus on structural approaches: 90% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans reported that increasing economic opportunities in poor communities would reduce violence somewhat or by a lot. This view was shared across all racial groups as well. Most Americans – Republicans, Democrats, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians – insist that community investment and economic opportunity should be part of a reimagined public safety strategy.