Defunding the Police Is Asinine and Counterproductive | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Wilfred Reilly during a Newsweek podcast debate on policing and law enforcement. You can listen to the podcast here:

My statement is that defunding the police in any real sense of that term is one of the worst ideas in the discourse right now. This is not a new idea. We saw this attempted during the 1960s and we saw the Ferguson-effect police pullback in 2014/2015. In practice, crime has surged literally every time it has been tried in the past, and this is why 80 percent to 90 percent of black people oppose police defunding.

So to spell it out a bit, by "defunding the police," I mean what the phrase logically implies: the removal of a substantial amount of money from police budgets, either transferred back into the general city budget or to other social services. So less budget and fewer cops and stops. We're talking about the actual municipal police budget. This is what most of the "defund the police" advocates seem to be stumping for, at the very least.

Hundreds of policemen from various departments attend
Hundreds of policemen from various departments attend the funeral for Chicago Police Officer Ella French on August 19, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

So The New York Times recently ran a famous, widely cited op-ed that was simply headlined: "Yes, we mean literally abolish the police." The problem is that this isn't a new idea, and doing it invariably results in a massive surge in serious crime. Last year, when we saw political protests and riots all year and "defund the police" became a catchphrase, we also saw murders surge over the 20,000 mark for the first time since 1995. You can try arguing that most departments haven't yet defunded, although that's not true: New York City alone cut a billion dollars from its police budget and Los Angeles $150 million. This was certainly tied to the reduction of stops and reduction in interactions. That'll be the main consequences of defunding. The commission on COVID-19 and criminal justice traces that 2020 crime surge back to "late May and early June of 2020."

Many police departments began to pull back following George Floyd's killing. In Minneapolis itself, the Minneapolis Police Department traces an 80 percent decrease in traffic stops and 39 percent decrease in human stops back specifically to the week of May 25. May 25 was the literal day Mr. Floyd died. I don't want to go on and on with this, but this happened following the Ferguson riots six years back. A Chicago magazine ran the headline, "police stops down 90 percent as crime skyrockets." You go back to the 1960s and crime increased 600 percent between 1963 and 1993.

I am perfectly willing, as I think my opponent is, to talk about something like increased funding for social work in any practical, non-semantic sense. Defunding the police is an insane idea.

Wilfred Reilly is associate professor of political science at Kentucky State University.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.