In 2020, radical police reform activists took center stage of the national discourse on law enforcement as protests and riots broke out around the country. In many metropolitan areas, their policies gained traction and were enacted by politicians who began vilifying police and going soft on crime. Spurred by the death of George Floyd, Minneapolis led the way. As many warned, these policies and the anti-police atmosphere created by them, has led to spikes in crime across the country.
Now, two years later, rifts in the Democratic Party over law enforcement reform are beginning to go public. These disagreements are between progressives who want to double down on these failed policies and moderate Democrats who want a more balanced approach.
To understand the dynamics at play, look no further than where it all kicked off: Minnesota.
There are two members of the House who represent Minnesota who are attempting to advance police reform bills which would also work to empower local police departments as crime continues to rise. Representatives from Minnesota, Dean Phillips and Angie Craig have recently supported bills that would give more federal aid to police departments for recruiting and training.
“The policing package includes a bill that would increase funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program. Another bill called the Invest to Protect Act, co-sponsored by Craig, would allow more flexible use of this money and establish a new grant program for police forces with fewer than 200 law enforcement officers,” reports the Minneapolis Post.
Much of the rhetoric in 2020 centered around the use of police in mental health situations. Another bill being proposed “would provide new funds to hire, employ, train, and dispatch mental health professionals to respond to 911 calls or those to any other emergency hotline prompted by someone in a mental health crisis.”
Yet while these bills are being introduced as avenues to address rising crime, strengthen law enforcement, and address reform concerns, there are progressive politicians who refuse to support them.
“Progressives, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th, have strenuously objected to providing more federal money for police instead of programs aimed at helping the poor. And members of the Congressional Black Caucus refuse to support doling out more cash for policing programs without any kind of new accountability standards,” notes the Post.
Progressive activist groups, such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, are also joining the fray, insisting that funding police is “harmful.”
“We urge you not to take up any legislation that perpetrates these harmful realities and doubles down on the broken and discriminatory criminalization-first approach to public safety,” the groups president said in statement to House Democrats.
While potential police reform legislation has been proposed in bipartisan discussions, this divide within the Democratic Party is the driving force keeping anything from being accomplished. It has become obvious that the Defund movement was a failure and violent crime is surging now that progressive DAs and local governments have gone soft on criminals. Moderate Democrats understand that more resources for law enforcement, not fewer, is part of a broader solution, while the more radical progressive wing continues the partisan path it has been on since 2020 in its mission to “reimagine” policing.
Image Credit: Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash