President Biden knows crime is a problem — with homicides up 25% in 2020 and early data showing another huge increase over last year in early 2021.
If trends hold, America will see 25,000 killings in 2021 — the highest total in our history. But the White House’s solution papers over the real and immense challenge of curbing violence in America.
Instead, Mr. Biden wants to target scofflaw gun dealers — but not felons carrying and using firearms? His priorities are made clear by the proposed funding his plan entails.
While adding $300 million to a police-hiring grant program, the administration is offering hundreds of billions — with a B — to communities and non-profits for “gun violence interruption” and youth jobs programs. At the same time, local and state law enforcement grants remain static.
But money is not the salve what ails America’s streets. Effective and empowered law enforcement is.
The murder surge can be traced back — not to the pandemic as the White House falsely claims — but to last summer’s unrest and rising hostility toward policing from public officials and activists. These personal and policy assaults defunded, demoralized and debilitated law enforcement.
Our study of 10 large police agencies found that homicides only began their significant uptick in June 2020 and continued well into 2021, a trend that even the Biden administration’s own statistics acknowledge. At the same time, police pulled back — worried they could be sued, fired, or even prosecuted for doing their jobs.
Where law enforcement has been defunded and undermined, homicides are skyrocketing. Homicides are up 271% in Portland, 78% in Minneapolis, and 44% in Los Angeles since the anti-police movement exploded.
Arrests and stops — interventions that prevent violence — plummeted from Chicago to Los Angeles, Louisville to Houston while violence soared.
In Baltimore, where I previously served as deputy police commissioner, public officials undermined and attacked rank-and-file law enforcement after the 2015 riots. The police responded in kind and arrests fell by 50% over the next five years while homicide jumped 65% — making Charm City America’s big city murder capital nearly every year.
The city, under now-Mayor Brandon Scott, is on pace for another terrible year. So, Mr. Biden’s invitation to Mr. Scott to seek crime-fighting solutions seems incongruous with finding what works and implementing it well.
But Mr. Scott’s gun violence plan — released early this year — almost never mentions law enforcement, prosecution or accountability except for the new bogeyman “gun traffickers” — just like Mr. Biden’s proposal.
The real perpetrators of violence — gangs, drug dealers and violent felons — are curiously absent from this discussion since in the new “woke” calculus they are “victims” as much as those they intimidate, maim and kill.
Such leniency has seeped into the offices of big city prosecutors, too. In another study we conducted of progressive prosecutors across the country, they dismissed 20% more felony cases than their predecessors and achieved guilty verdicts in significantly fewer cases overall.
Holding criminals accountable is passe while prosecuting police is the latest trend among the same social justice warriors turned district attorneys.
It is no surprise that police are leaving the profession in droves since the anti-police movement has taken off. According to a study by the Police Executive Research Forum, police retirements have jumped 45% in the last year. Our own analysis has found that especially hostile cities like Austin, where the DA has made prosecuting police a top priority, retirements are up 65% while resignations have jumped 63% over the last twelve months. If the trend for 2021 holds, retirements in those 10 large agencies will surge 40% over last year’s already high figure.
And recruitment is increasingly difficult with agencies failing to attract enough qualified candidates to fill their academies and replace departing officers. Famed NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton recently remarked that he wouldn’t want to be a police officer today. This is disheartening to say the least. And the lack of interest in law enforcement as a career will inevitably result in lowering standards and reduced candidate quality — only exacerbating the crisis in law enforcement.
Mr. Biden’s $300 million to hire new cops cannot conjure highly qualified, motivated, and professional police out of thin air but the woke policies of his fellow travelers did make them vanish.
The public knows the stakes. In very liberal New York City, where murders have spiked 50% in the last twelve months amid increasing anti-police activity and policies, 46% of Democratic primary voters named public safety as the city’s top priority.
Because we know that professional, empowered and constitutional law enforcement works, we must build on our immense progress and continue to improve the quality of law enforcement personnel and their training.
• Jason Johnson is the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), dedicated to defending and promoting effective, professional and constitutional policing. He previously served as deputy commissioner of police for Baltimore, Maryland.