There Is No Alternative to the Police | Opinion

Last year, Clarence Venable was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. after attending a training session for a group called Violence Interrupters. When activists talk about defunding the police, violence interruption—or de-escalation by community activists—is one of the replacements that they have in mind.

The Violence Interrupters were part of the Cure the Streets program implemented by the D.C. attorney general's office. But while millions have been spent on alternatives to the police, gun violence in the nation's capital continues to rise with no end in sight.

Over 100 people have already been murdered in D.C. in 2020: a 26 percent annual increase. Not only isn't the violence being "interrupted," but the Violence Interrupters are proving helpless against it.

While the Violence Interrupters were envisioned as an alternative to the criminal justice system, the Clarence J. Venable Violence Intervention and Prevention Workers Protection Act was introduced to protect interrupters by increasing prison time for anyone who attacks an interrupter.

The D.C. bill made it painfully obvious that not only wasn't de-escalation an alternative to the police and penal systems, but it needed cops and the threat of prison to keep it safe.

The tragedy of expecting unarmed community activists to stop the killing was brought home on the Fourth of July when Davon McNeal, an 11-year-old boy, was killed at the Frederick Douglass Apartments.

McNeal's mother was a Violence Interrupter, and his grandfather was a Guardian Angel.

In the wake of Davon's murder, at community rallies, children shouted, "Kids' Lives Matter," encouraging residents to come forward with information about the killers.

Even as Black Lives Matter activists call for defunding the police and urge people not to call law enforcement to report a crime, Davon's family fought for justice by turning to the police.

"Where are the Black Lives Matter people when Black people are hurting Black people?" Davon's grandfather demanded.

Two of the suspects should have been in jail, but one was placed into a supervised probation program after being caught with a gun, and another had been arrested twice before on gun charges but was placed on "active intensive supervision" with an ankle monitor that he allegedly cut off.

"Diversion," another popular activist alternative to prisons, may have cost Davon his life.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham said that his department is unable to stop the violence because of the "repeat violent gun offenders released back into our community."

But even as communities cry out for more police and harsher penalties, D.C. politicians have doubled down on pretending that there are better alternatives to arresting and locking up violent criminals.

Even though those alternatives are not working.

Research has shown no meaningful evidence that violence interruption actually works. And if stopping gang members from killing each other over money and turf were as easy as having a conversation with them about their life choices, why would have anyone ever need the police to begin with?

Major cities have failed to learn the painful lessons of D.C., and are rushing to embrace Violence Interrupters as part of "reimagining" what law enforcement might look like. And despite the growing violence, D.C. politicians still insist on pulling money out of the police department and moving it to Violence Interruptors and other initiatives that cannot take the place of armed police officers.

NYPD officers on horseback
NYPD officers on horseback Noam Galai/Getty Images

Who will protect the Violence Interruptors when they fail to interrupt the violence?

The answer, as D.C.'s Violence Intervention and Prevention Workers Protection Act shows, is the police and the prison system. And when the police aren't allowed to do their jobs, then Violence Interruptors, mediators and social workers are, at best, irrelevant—and, at worst, targets.

There's nothing wrong with community initiatives, but when bullets are flying, mediators are useless.

The push to reimagine law enforcement is based on the mistaken notion that the police, not gang members, are the cause of the violence plaguing inner-city communities. Moving money from police departments to mediators solves the problem of the police, but not the murder of children like Davon.

Defunding the police means a willingness to accept high crime rates. Activists describe this as "reimagining safety," but, stripped of abstract terms that sound as if they were borrowed from a Silicon Valley startup launch, what that really means is accepting the killing of children as the price for no cops.

And then it becomes a question of whose children are being killed.

Defunding the police is an experiment in human sacrifice. The rising death toll in D.C., Chicago and New York City are the price that some people are paying for the politics of the activists.

There is no alternative to the police.

Police-defunding activists reimagine the police by denying the reality of crime and the persistence of evil. They pretend that gang violence will end with enough conferences and conversations. But Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone and El Chapo weren't brought down with conversations about their life choices.

Trying to reach young men is a noble effort, but it's not an alternative to breaking up gangs, arresting their leaders and putting away the killers before their bullets hit a child.

Communities should stand up for their values, but without the police, interrupting violence is suicide.

When the police feel supported by their communities, they proactively patrol and intervene to keep communities safe before violence happens by stopping suspects who are going to commit crimes.

But when they don't feel supported, then the police only show up afterward to take reports. The police-defunding movement hasn't gotten rid of the police, but it is getting rid of proactive policing—leaving communities with officers who document the violence, but aren't doing anything to stop it.

When cities actually want to interrupt the violence, they turn to the police. And when they want to interrupt the police, they turn to gimmicks—and then crime rises, bullets fly and children die.

The alternative to the police isn't non-violent mediation. It's violence, fear and death.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman journalism fellow with the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

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