The Morning Jolt

Law & the Courts

Should We ‘Defund the Police’ As Homicides Rise in Major Cities?

Police stand guard after dismantling the protest zone at City Hall in New York, July 22, 2020. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

On the menu today: A new analysis of crime figures illustrates why “defund the police” will never catch on beyond the hardest of the hard-left enclaves; a New York Times column offers a bizarre and near-apocalyptic scenario for the upcoming presidential election; the coronavirus restrictions in New York City make less sense by the day; and a fun, wide-ranging chat.

Defund the Police? In Our Biggest Cities, Homicides Are Up 24 Percent So Far This Year

Ladies and gentlemen, a vivid illustration of why “defund the police” will either never get traction or backfire enormously:

A Wall Street Journal analysis of crime statistics among the nation’s 50 largest cities found that reported homicides were up 24 percent so far this year, to 3,612. Shootings and gun violence also rose, even though many other violent crimes such as robbery fell.

Police, researchers, mayors and community leaders see a confluence of forces at work in the homicide spike. Institutions that keep city communities safe have been destabilized by lockdown and protests against police. Lockdowns and recession also mean tensions are running high and streets have been emptied of eyes and ears on their communities. Some attribute the rise to an increase in gang violence.

Some cities with long-running crime problems saw their numbers rise, including Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis, Tenn. Chicago, the worst-hit, has tallied more than one of every eight homicides.

Some Texas cities that had low numbers last year seem to be particularly hard hit by this ongoing homicide wave. Homicides in San Antonio are up nearly 34 percent from a year ago (71 total homicides), Fort Worth is up 42 percent (37 total), and Austin is up 64 percent (23 total).

The article notes that certain property crimes such as robbery, burglary, and rape have dropped compared with last year, thankfully. Crimes of opportunity are dropping, in part, because of fewer opportunities.

Police in many departments said robberies, burglaries and rapes are down so far this year because more people stayed home during Covid-19 lockdowns, leaving fewer prospective victims on the streets, in bars or other public places. Burglars weren’t likely to break into homes filled with people under lockdown, they say. Homicides, on the other hand, are up because violent criminals have been emboldened by the sidelining of police, courts, schools, churches and an array of other social institutions by the reckoning with police and the pandemic, say analysts and law-enforcement officials in several cities.

Up in the Pacific Northwest, a majority of the members of Seattle’s city council have pledged to defund the police, although putting that into practice is proving harder than they thought.

Only one council member, Kshama Sawant, proposed immediate and blunt cuts that could slash close to 50 percent of the department’s remaining 2020 budget. The rest offered proposals for this year that would slice 100 full-time equivalent positions — out of 1,428 fully trained, probationary and recruited officers — from the department through layoffs and attrition, while shuffling some police functions into other city departments.

Political activists are always coming up with simple, catchy slogans and ideas that prove just about impossible to implement in practice.

We cannot have a functioning society without policing; the question is what kind of policing do we want to have.

Elsewhere in Seattle, those peaceful protesters have been caught with peaceful explosives, peaceful stun guns, peaceful spike strips, and starting peaceful fires.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best said at a Wednesday news conference that police discovered explosives, smoke bombs and other weapons in a van stationed at the weekend protests.

Best said over the weekend that officers used blast balls, pepper spray and 40mm sponge-tip rounds, while some in the crowd of protesters broke windows and started fires. At one point, she said, someone threw an explosive that blew an 8-inch hole through a wall of the Police Department’s East Precinct.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said Saturday evening that his team responded to multiple fires, including one that destroyed four trailers at a construction site.

Police later impounded the van and, after obtaining a search warrant, discovered firework pyrotechnics, smoke bombs, stun guns, bear and pepper spray, makeshift spike strips and gas masks, Best said.

Hey, remember George Floyd? Didn’t all this start with a broad, bipartisan consensus in support of equal treatment under the law? The 14th Amendment has stated since 1868 that “no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Didn’t we have a far-reaching agreement among whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and everyone of every race, creed, and color that it was time for America to live up to that requirement?

Instead we’ve had Golden Girls reruns pulled from streaming services, changes to the depiction of fantasy races in Dungeons & Dragons, an end to the brands of “Eskimo pies,” “the Dixie Chicks” and “Lady Antebellum,” an all-black Mercedes Formula One car, and slogans on the backs of NBA players. We want a more just society, but instead we get headline-grabbing rebranding efforts.

‘California, Oregon, and Washington Then Threatened to Secede . . .’

The last few paragraphs of Ben Smith’s New York Times column have an intense “say what?” quality. Much of the column is about how it is unlikely we will know the winner of the election on Election Night, because so many ballots will be cast by mail and will be counted slowly. But then Smith suggests that in certain scenarios, campaigns and state governments may refuse to accept the results:

. . . a group of former top government officials called the Transition Integrity Project actually gamed four possible scenarios, including one that doesn’t look that different from 2016: a big popular win for Mr. Biden, and a narrow electoral defeat, presumably reached after weeks of counting the votes in Pennsylvania. For their war game, they cast John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, in the role of Mr. Biden. They expected him, when the votes came in, to concede, just as Mrs. Clinton had.

But Mr. Podesta, playing Mr. Biden, shocked the organizers by saying he felt his party wouldn’t let him concede. Alleging voter suppression, he persuaded the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan to send pro-Biden electors to the Electoral College.

In that scenario, California, Oregon, and Washington then threatened to secede from the United States if Mr. Trump took office as planned. The House named Mr. Biden president; the Senate and White House stuck with Mr. Trump. At that point in the scenario, the nation stopped looking to the media for cues, and waited to see what the military would do.

Note that governors cannot unilaterally decide to send the electors of the losing candidate to the Electoral College. The Wisconsin Election Commission certifies the vote in that state — and they are split among three Republicans and three Democrats. They can’t simply decide, “Well, we think the vote was suppressed, and we think the second-place finisher was the real winner, and so we will make up some new numbers of what we think the vote should have been and declare those the results and send the electors of the candidate we prefer.” In Michigan, the election is certified by the secretary of state, which is currently Democrat Jocelyn Benson, who has spent this year assuring her state’s residents that the primary and general elections will be “safe, secure, and on schedule.” The only way Smith’s scenario comes to pass is if Benson were to suddenly conclude she and her office had done a terrible job, completely failed in their mission, and that the election had not been safe and secure.

Furthermore, the House and Senate only pick the president if there is a 269–269 tie or no candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, not if there is a dispute over which candidate got the most votes. The House picks the president, but each state delegation gets one vote. The Senate selects the vice president. Under the scenario that Smith describes, the more likely scenario is President Biden and Vice President Pence.

Somewhere in Russia, Vladimir Putin is peeing himself with laughter at the thought of certain American state governments threatening to secede because the candidate they can’t stand won the election.

Bill De Blasio’s New York: Funerals, No; Rave Parties, Yes

Bill de Blasio’s New York: Tough on “the Jewish community” over attending funerals, blasé about massive rave parties being held under bridges in Brooklyn.

Is it really a “secret” rave when you have several hundred people gathering in a public space?

Ah, here are the magic words that make everything okay: “Apparently the event was meant to be a Black Lives Matter protest and it ‘spiraled out of hand.’”

ADDENDUM: Over the weekend I taped a lengthy, fun, and wide-ranging conversation with Chase Thomas, covering everything from whether we will have an NFL season, the state of the Jets, the state of politics and how we got so divided and angry, advice for aspiring young journalists, and more.

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