If the antipolice crowd planned the weakening of law enforcement in the many nefarious ways it is occurring, then they are brilliant strategists and propogandists. If the byproducts of their fury are mere happenstance, then they must be ecstatic at their destructive influence. Here’s what is at risk.
It was hard enough for small business owners to make a living in urban areas before the destructive riots, and even before COVID. Businesses offering services to underserved areas have additional challenges but remained for those who needed access to food and other goods in their own neighborhoods. These are some of the hardest hit from recent days of civil unrest. Recovering from looting, vandalism, and fear is not as simple as filing an insurance claim. A loss of police protection is unsustainable. Many are leaving, seeking opportunity elsewhere.
Many areas thrive partly because people want to travel to or through the area. As travel is increasing after COVID, who wants to go to areas where there is no guarantee of safety or police response? The vitality and diversity of many communities relies on visitors having good travel experiences, whether for business or leisure. Those opportunities are now being lost to both the travelers and their potential hosts.
Social justice takes money for sustainable programs and personnel. There are cries for more drug treatment, more social services, more alternatives to a police response. The concept of defunding to shift resources doesn’t even sound good in theory to those who work in the reality of emergency services. The loss of tax revenue resulting from lower property values, less sales tax revenue from closed businesses, and fewer consumers venturing out to spend, will have crippling effects in the cities where the demands are the greatest. Looking for federal money is not a long term solution.
Those who know and care about facts have come to realize that widespread media bias or laziness is failing to convey reality to Americans. Media reports are fed from media manipulators. The language of antipolice sentiment has been adopted from the blog level to the national media. Competition for website clicks has reinstituted traits of yellow journalism where misleading headlines sold newspapers. Gannet publications is an example. The publishing giant states its mission on its webpage: “As the new Gannett, we exist to make communities stronger. As an award-winning news organization, we inform and empower our communities. As a modern media company, we foster deep and vital connections among our communities and the world around them.” Despite referring to itself as a news organization, its stated objective is to mold opinion and behavior. There is no commitment to objectivity.
Essential public safety programs
The defund proponents are seeing school safety staff and programs gutted. Who will engage in traffic enforcement aimed at reducing the 38,000 annual traffic deaths of which 10,000 are from drunk driving? Murder is on the rise. Despite the current critique of the 1994 Crime bill that added tens of thousands of officers to the payrolls of agencies, that increase in police officers had a well-documented effect on reducing crime rates.
Police officers are leaving embattled agencies and jurisdictions through resignation and retirement. They are also keeping a lower profile, reducing initiated activity, being more reluctant to engage in order to protect their minds, bodies, and finances from the threats that have increased toward them. Inflammatory rhetoric has emboldened lawbreakers and weakened law enforcement. This loss of productivity off officers struggling to remain multiplies the effect of reduced staffing from defunding and resignations.
Loss of leadership for reform
One of the saddest ironies of the antipolice movement is the loss of great leadership for reform that is embodied in police leaders. Chiefs with long years of service, many of whom are executives of color, are leaving their positions in protest or hopelessness of what they know as professionals to be impossible and irresponsible demands.
The promise of a brighter and better future for those serving in law enforcement in the light of public attention has turned to dust. We will not only continue to lose competent leaders now, but perhaps an entire generation of young men and women who will be discouraged from joining the law enforcement profession.
Loss of checks and balances
With whatever faults exist, the criminal justice system has been a guardian of rights and due process on the local level. With local law enforcement at risk of collapse, federalization will increase. As demands for radical reform reach the ears of opportunists in Washington, more federal control over those dollars will occur. America should pride itself that it is protected in each local community by the 18,000 police agencies directly accountable to their communities. Loss of that local control to federal influence portends a loss of liberty. Ceding most criminal justice efforts to mental health and social services enters people into a world where there is no representation, no public oversight, no appeal, and no accountability to victims of crime.
In many ways freedom is ultimately the cost we may bear more than anything.