WASHINGTON—As the smoke clears from a national two-week frenzy of rioting, looting, and arson, a substantial far-left push is underway to defund or radically transform police departments, under the premise that they’re systemically racist.
Initially, protests were peaceful and called for justice for George Floyd, the black man who died in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. However, rioting escalated in Minneapolis, and curfews did little to help, until the National Guard and state and local police used tear gas and pepper spray to break up crowds and chase rioters away. Parts of the city were reduced to piles of burning rubble.
Critics say calls to defund police ignore the bigger issues and the need for societal change. One issue is a disproportionately large amount of black crime, which often stems from the breakdown of black families and lack of positive messages to empower young African Americans.
“It is absolute taboo to talk about the fact that blacks commit crime at exponentially higher rates. [And] blacks are victimized by crime at exponentially higher rates,” said Heather Mac Donald, fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”
Black Lives Matter (BLM), which has been the most visible presence in protests across the nation, has been leading the push to defund police, and the group is sponsoring a “Defund Police” petition on its website.
Officials in New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis have been quick in pledging to either defund or divert money from their local police forces.
Kailee Scales, the managing director for Black Lives Matter, wrote during a June 8 question-and-answer session on Reddit that “the call for defunding the police force is based in simple facts.” She wrote: “Modern-day policing institutions have their roots in slave-catching. These systems were created to hunt, maim, and kill Black people—and are the result of centuries-old anti-Black attitudes codified into law.”
Other black leaders are drawing attention to another perspective.
Former civil rights activist Bob Woodson told The Epoch Times that a police brutality problem against black people simply doesn’t exist. “Unequivocally no,” he said. “It is just not true that this is a crisis, that somehow black men are being slaughtered by the police. It’s just patently untrue.”
Woodson, also the founder of The Woodson Center, said young black people are being taught by other blacks that they’re exempt from personal responsibility because “every problem that you have is somehow related to what white people have done in the past, and therefore, your condition cannot improve until white people change.”
“That’s the ultimate form of white supremacy,” he said. “It’s almost mental slavery. It’s even worse than slavery. At least slavery was imposed from outside. Mental slavery comes from within.”
Woodson said the statistics don’t support the BLM claim and the fervor around the idea that America’s police are systemically racist.
About 7,500 black people are killed by homicide each year in the United States, according to Mac Donald.
Nine unarmed black men were killed in police shootings in 2019.
And of the approximately 1,000 victims of police shootings who were armed or otherwise dangerous, 235 were black—about one quarter. Although that’s about twice the proportion of the black population, it doesn’t mean police are shooting blacks out of racism, Mac Donald told The Epoch Times on June 8.
“What predicts officer use of force is the rate at which officers encounter violent and resisting suspects. And the rate at which officers killed blacks is actually far less than what their crime rates would predict,” Mac Donald said.
She said blacks commit about 60 percent of all homicides and robberies in the largest counties in the United States, and commit gun homicide at about 10 times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined.
Calls to Defund
Democrat politicians in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and New York have embraced the calls to divert funding away from policing. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called the police a “cancer.”
Nine of the 12 members on the Minneapolis City Council have vowed they will work to end policing as the city currently knows it. When asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota who she should call if her home were broken into in the middle of the night, City Council President Lisa Bender responded: “Yes, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors. And … I know that that comes from a place of privilege.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has so far rejected the council’s calls to disband its police forces.
Omar, whose district covers Minneapolis, said the city’s police department should be scrapped because it “is rotten to the root.”
“I will never stop saying not only do we need to disinvest in police, but we need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” Omar said during a rally on June 7.
Los Angeles is slashing its police budget by $100 million to $150 million as part of a larger $250 million budget cut for the city, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
The money cut from the police and elsewhere would be invested “in jobs, in education, and healing,” Garcetti said at a press conference.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to divert funding from the NYPD to youth and social services.
The local police union leader said police officers are currently under extreme pressure.
“We are portrayed in the press and everywhere else as the enemy, and we want people to know that we take our jobs seriously, we’re professional, and the vast, vast majority of the time we act appropriately and honorably,” Police Benevolent Association President Mike O’Meara said in a press conference on June 10.
“The notion that police are not investigated, and we’re some wild organization out there doing what we wish is just a falsehood. … We need people to understand that we are under scrutiny.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors announced a new racial justice working group on June 8 that will address “police violence and patterns of racial discrimination.”
On a federal level, the Congressional Black Caucus introduced a sweeping 134-page police reform bill on June 8 that addresses issues from body cameras to lynching. Top Democrats have rejected calls to defund police departments, however.
Police Pulling Back
Mac Donald said police officers already encounter “an unbelievable degree of hatred” in minority neighborhoods, and the renewed talk about defunding or reducing entire police forces, along with the violent targeting of police officers, gives officers the message they’re not wanted in those communities.
She predicts a repeat of what happened in 2015 and 2016 when the police pulled back from doing their jobs following the riots in Ferguson, Missouri—what she calls the “Ferguson Effect.”
“Officers pulled back from discretionary proactive policing. Another 2,000 black males were killed in 2015 and 2016, compared to earlier levels—the largest two-year increase in homicide in 50 years. So more black lives will be lost,” she said.
Increased attrition rates and the growing difficulty in recruiting new officers are compounding the issue. Sixty-three percent of respondents in a 2019 survey of police agencies said recruitment has decreased over the last five years.
Mac Donald said policing has been reforming itself for several decades and is now much more professional and data driven. Within some departments, unions are too strong, which makes it difficult to fire the “small handful” that shouldn’t be police officers—“but that’s not true everywhere.”
Better training is an ongoing need, she said, especially more hands-on tactical training.
“I would like to see more de-escalation training. I would like to see more training in controlling stress. But those are changes at the margins,” she said. “As long as black crime remains as high as it is, officers are going to be disproportionately deployed to minority neighborhoods.”
Black Lives Lost
The BLM movement has never turned its focus to black-on-black crime, which is astronomically higher than any other grouping.
“They don’t give a damn about black lives,” Mac Donald said of BLM.
She said in 2016, 4,300 people were shot in Chicago—one person every two hours, and virtually all were black.
“Two dozen children under the age of 12 were shot. A boy was shot on Father’s Day and is now paralyzed for life. A 3-year-old and a 10-year-old shot on Labor Day—the bullet ripped through his pancreas and spleen. Nobody knows their names, because they don’t fit the narrative. Black kids killed by black gangbangers—who cares?” Mac Donald said.
“When black kids are killed, nobody looks, they look the other way. Why? Because America is so racially guilty, it doesn’t want to talk about black crime.”
Black Lives Matter has not returned a request for comment on whether their movement is also determined to focus on black-on-black crime.
New York former gang member and community leader KingFace said BLM should be about all lives.
“We can’t just be coming out when a white person or a cop kills a minority. … We have to be coming out for every situation of a black death that was unjust,” he told The Epoch Times. “All black lives matter. … I want to be able to prevent and preserve all black lives.”
KingFace’s focus now is on mentoring kids in his community.
“We’ve been indoctrinated and taught that as a black person, when you have this skin color, that you have disadvantages. That’s a lie. … We have equal opportunity, but we don’t have equal outcome.”
Woodson said his organization is transforming troubled neighborhoods by working with residents and local leaders.
“I’ve seen evidence that even those who started life in a troubled situation have become re-moralized and began to go on to live a successful life,” Woodson said. “I believe in the re-moralization of people.”
He said his organization supported a program at the Kenilworth Parkside public housing estate in Washington.
“The residents there decided that they were tired of the destruction, and they began to discipline themselves, they began to study hard, they began to encourage their children. And in 10 years, they sent 700 children from this one public housing project onto college and eliminated teen pregnancy,” Woodson said.
“It’s an example of people who … began to take responsibility for the rebuilding of their lives and their community—with phenomenal success.”
Mac Donald said the reknitting of the black family is key.
“How do we reach a positive resolution? You can’t without the truth. As long as Americans are too scared to talk about black crime, there will be no positive resolution, because we keep blaming the messenger,” she said.
“The cops are not the problem in this country; criminals are.”