Politicians across the United States are responding in varying degrees of support for calls from radical left-wing groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter to “defund the police,” although official data shows states and cities with the biggest crime problems would be hurt the most by such moves.
Nationwide, average state spending on police protection has been remarkably steady over the past several decades, at around $63 per capita.
California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has responded to defunding demands by rejecting outright elimination of police forces while being willing to accept major changes in government spending.
“If you’re calling for eliminating police, no,” Newsom told a group of black business officials in Oakland on June 9, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“If you’re talking about reimagining and taking the opportunity to look at the responsibility and role that we place on law enforcement to be social workers, mental health workers, get involved in disputes where a badge and a gun are unnecessary, then I think absolutely this is an opportunity to look at all of the above,” he said.
Newsom’s state spends $48.83 per capita on police protection expenditures, which puts California in the middle among other high-population-high crime states, including Pennsylvania ($89.91), Washington state ($62.47), New York ($54.46), and Illinois ($39.96). The U.S. 50-state per-capita average is $62.56.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, however, declared himself ardently opposed to defunding the police.
“Look at that looting,” he said June 7, referring to violence in the nation’s biggest city.
“It was frightening. … [When there are] no police, you get looting. That’s what you get. Nobody wants that.” Cuomo’s comment mirrored a May 29 tweet by President Donald Trump, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Trump said June 1: “These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.”
But it’s been the nation’s cities that have seen the most violence in recent weeks, as well as demands for defunding local police forces.
Minneapolis, the nation’s 46th largest city by population, was the site of the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a city policeman that sparked two weeks of nationwide riots and looting.
Minneapolis has 19.82 cops per 10,000 people, below the U.S. average for all cities of 21.57 in 2018, the most recently available year. But Minneapolis residents endured 792.74 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents, significantly higher than the U.S. cities per-capita average of 747.69.
The Minnesota metropolis’s 2018 police budget was $179.4 million, a figure that officials determined amid proliferating calls from community activists for reducing law enforcement spending long before Floyd’s death.
Police department budget cuts or outright defunding are also being sought by radical left-wing activists in the five U.S. cities with the most murders and the most violent crime.
The nation’s capital, for example, had the highest per-capita murder rate in the nation in 2018 at 22.78, followed by Philadelphia (22.12), Chicago (20.7), Indianapolis (18.46), and Jacksonville (12.18).
Similarly, the top five cities for highest per-capita violent crime rate are Indianapolis at 1,272 per 100,000, Houston (1,026), Chicago (1,006), Washington (941), and Philadelphia (909).
Not coincidentally, four of these same cities have the largest forces per capita, with Washington first at 54.68 police per 10,000 population, followed by Chicago (48.32), New York (42.4), Philadelphia (41.45), and Indianapolis (29.81).
Washington, D.C.’s 54.68 per-capita police figure far exceeds those for the states of the other largest cities. New York’s 33.33 in 2018 puts it second, followed by Illinois (32.13), Pennsylvania (26.05), and California (23.37). The figure for Minnesota is 17.71.
In Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, Mayor Eric Garcetti responded to two weeks of riots and defunding demands by agreeing to slash $150 million from the city police budget of $1.9 billion. The violent per-capita crime rate in Los Angeles equals the U.S. average of 747.
New York, the most populous U.S. city, had a per-capita violent crime rate of 541 in 2018, well below the national average, although the city’s police budget, at $6 billion, is far larger than that of Los Angeles.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this week he will propose cutting the police budget but declined to say by how much. Just two days earlier, de Blasio declared that “for those who say defund the police, I would say that is not the way forward.”
Dozens of Democratic and minor party candidates for New York City Council jobs are pushing for police budget cuts of $1 billion or more.
Both cities’ murder rates are well below the per-capita national average of 12.26, at 6.4 for Los Angeles and 3.46 for New York.