If someone had suggested on March 1 of this year that states should shut down their entire economies and force people to stay at home in order to prevent the spread of a virus, you probably would have thought the same thing I did at the time: That’s the dumbest and craziest idea anyone has ever spoken out loud. But a few days later, 41 states did exactly that. So now when people are saying that major metropolitan areas should “Defund the Police,” don’t shake your head and think, “That could never happen.” It can happen and it probably will in some places.
Has any American city ever tried to “defund” its police force before? Is there any sort of precedent we can look to, to see whether this is a good idea that will benefit or harm the people who live in that city?
Actually, we have two cities that have massively defended their police forces in recent years. The Obama Justice Department under former Attorney General Loretta Lynch conducted exhaustive investigations of the police departments in these two cities. Lynch then declared the police to be “racists” in those cities. Those two cities then massively curtailed their police budgets and imposed extreme limits on the amounts of force that police are allowed to use when apprehending criminals in those two cities.
As a result of federal intervention in those two cities, the police departments engaged in an act which is known as the “Retreat to the Donut Shop.” They simply stopped policing black neighborhoods entirely. Why go into a war zone and do your job when you know that it could destroy your life and your family if you are forced to shoot a black attacker?
Those two cities where the police were defunded? One was Ferguson, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis), the home of the 2014 Michael Brown “hands up, don’t shoot” hoax and subsequent riots. The other was Baltimore, Maryland, the home of the 2015 Freddie Gray riots. Are those cities safer today for black people than they were before the Obama DOJ’s civil rights division defunded the police? Not by a long shot.
The murder rate in both cities skyrocketed. Baltimore shot up to 342 homicides in 2017. They had 349 homicides last year. Per capita, Baltimore’s murder rate is more than twice as high as Chicago’s. You could take a vacation to Syria right now to visit historical Christian sites and it would be safer than walking around the business district in Baltimore on a weeknight after 8 p.m. That’s not an exaggeration. Baltimore now ranks as the 11th most dangerous city in the entire world. And it’s all because they defunded the police.
But Baltimore isn’t even the most dangerous city in America. That distinction falls to St. Louis, thanks to the suburb of Ferguson. St. Louis/Ferguson only has half the population of Baltimore, but its per capita murder rate is even higher. Baltimore has 58 murders per 100,000 people each year, compared to 64 murders per 100,000 in St. Louis/Ferguson. Thanks to defunding the police in Ferguson, St. Louis’ murder rate is now almost tied with that of Cape Town, South Africa.
St. Louis is considered the 9th most dangerous city in the entire world. Mexico, Venezuela and South Africa are the only three countries in the world that have cities more dangerous than Ferguson and Baltimore.
Ferguson and Baltimore defunded the police. They didn’t eliminate the police entirely. Someone has to come pick up the dead bodies after a busy Friday night. But they defunded the cops drastically, and we can see the result.
The murder rates in both of those cities are out of control. Average life expectancy in America is now around 80 years of age. But in Baltimore, it’s fallen to 74 and in Ferguson, average life expectancy has dropped to 69. That’s a result of young and healthy black people murdering each other for scraps, spare change or drugs, because the police were defunded.
Even if the police were actually racist in those cities to begin with, would that be a worse condition to live in than what residents of Ferguson and Baltimore are going through right now? This isn’t some intellectual exercise. We see what really happens when the police are defunded. When it comes to a major city, there are only two choices: A police force, or misery and hell on earth without a police force.