It did not take long for those on the hard left to capitalize on the murder of George Floyd after footage was released showing the encounter that cost him his life. Shortly after the video went viral on social media, progressives began using their rallying cry to “defund the police.”
Many major cities across the United States embraced the initiatives, slashing law enforcement budgets by millions of dollars. As a result, recent data reveal that police departments in these areas are struggling to maintain an appropriate level of staffing. It is almost certain that this trend will have a deleterious impact on the citizenry.
New York City
The New York Police Department has suffered significant losses in personnel. According to The Epoch Times, its numbers are “down about 1,500 officers as retirements jumped to 2,600 last year from 1,509 in 2019.” Almost 350 officers stepped down by mid-May of 2021.
The Epoch Times explained that “many of the retirements had to do with anti-police sentiment fanned by activist groups during protests and riots that followed the death of convicted felon George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis last year.”
New York began prohibiting the practice of kneeling on a suspect’s back or chest as a restraint, the same technique that former officer Derek Chauvin used on Floyd. In addition, New York City imposed new measures preventing judges from requiring bail for nonviolent crimes. Some officers have indicated that these laws had a demoralizing effect on the police force.
In response to its losses, the NYPD embarked on a major recruitment drive in 2021. It is expected that this will add about 1,600 new officers next year. But, as The Times pointed out, “by then, thousands more may have left the force, if the pace of retirements continues.”
Gun violence is on the rise in New York City. The number of gun homicides has more than doubled between 2019 and 2020. This year, as of June 13, 721 victims have been shot, which is the highest number for this particular period since 2002.
Chicago’s Police Department also is experiencing a drastic decline in its law enforcement staff. More than 700 officers have left the force since 2019, according to The Epoch Times. The report noted:
“In 2019, the department was able to hire 459 officers. In 2020, that number dropped to 157. This year, 105 have been hired as of April 30, based on the data.
“Meanwhile, 646 officers retired or resigned last year, compared to 592 in 2019. This year, 330 have left as of April 30.”
John Catanzara, the leader of the local Fraternal Order of Police, indicated that many younger officers are transferring to other departments in the state.
“We have young officers doing lateral transfers, leaving this department and going somewhere else, whether it’s a suburb or out of state entirely,” he explained. “I’m talking the same people that they [the city leadership] think are going to pick up the mantle and carry on this police department are the ones that are even saying they had enough.”
Homicides in the Windy City rose more than 50% in 2020 and shootings have increased by about 18%. Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot, regarding the impact of having fewer police officers on the street, claimed the uptick in crime was due to poverty, unemployment, and people possessing “military-grade weapons.”
Los Angeles has not fared much better than the other two major cities. It has lost about 600 officers since 2019. One of the primary reasons for this decline is a government-instituted hiring freeze in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s vote to approve a $150 million cut to the police budget.
The city’s government gave the department a slight increase this year. This allowed it to start hiring new officers on July 1. However, LAPD Chief Michel Moore indicated at a May 25 meeting that this boost would not be sufficient to get the department back to pre-pandemic numbers. He stated it would only replenish “staffing levels that were the result of the budget cutbacks that were implemented last year by the mayor and city council.”
In 2020, more than 1,300 people were shot, an almost 40% increase from 2019. As of June 12, 2021, 626 victims have been gunned down, a nearly 60% increase from the same time period last year.
These are not the only cities that have experienced difficulties in maintaining staffing levels amid increasing rates of violent crime. Seattle, Austin, St. Louis, and others are facing the same issue. Moreover, as crime continues to rise, concerns over insufficient levels of policing are becoming more prevalent.
The anti-police crowd appears to have done its job. In major cities, fewer law enforcement officers are patrolling the streets. This makes it more difficult for police departments to apprehend violent criminals, who are free to victimize more people. Why would they stop if they know the likelihood of being caught has drastically decreased?
The money cut from the police department is touted as going toward areas designed to decrease crime levels and negative interactions with law enforcement. However, with more criminals feeling free to commit crimes and more people losing their lives as a result, it might cause many to wonder if defunding the police was worth it.
Read more from Jeff Charles.