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For The Week Of June 7, 2020 Through June 13, 2020

'Defund The Police' Building As An Issue

By Alethia Kasben
Managing Editor
Posted: June 8, 2020 4:40 PM

With protests ongoing across the country against police brutality and racial injustice, "defunding the police" is building as a rallying cry for many supporting the issue, and some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, are already trying to use it to bash their political counterparts.

Some consultants and observers are arguing Democrats are giving Republicans a win by moving toward "defund the police" as the call is more nuanced than its plain text suggests. The idea being getting rid of the police would be unpopular among older and moderate voters and bring them back toward Mr. Trump at a time when his polling numbers are low. While some might think defunding the police means getting rid of departments entirely, that is not necessarily what many are seeking.

Instead, people are calling for less money to be spent on police and more money to be spent on community services, like combatting homelessness or providing more funding for mental health treatments. Part of the argument here is spending money on those services will help reduce crime as well.

Still, Mr. Trump has already taken to Twitter calling Democrats the "radical left" who want to get rid of the police while he supports law and order. Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox also issued a statement calling on U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat up for reelection this year in Michigan, to say if he supports or opposes defunding the police.

There are a couple things in play here on if an average voter, or a more moderate voter who might consider voting for Mr. Trump, finds this new call too extreme. The first is how long it lasts.

While the Black Lives Matter movement has been here for years, it has broadly taken hold as protests have continued across the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis two weeks ago. Certainly, advocates will use the current moment to land on some reforms. How it shakes out in the end is still to be seen.

I don't know if a moderate voter will be completely turned off by the call to defund the police. In recent years, criminal justice reform has exploded in popularity. Issues have passed in Michigan and gone to the governor for signature that could never get out of the state Legislature before. People want to be safe, yes, but also it seems more people would support spending less on police if you are spending more on interventions that help prevent crime and help people get back on their feet after serving time in jail or prison.

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