Biden must support police officers instead of undermining them

Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared on on June 3, 2022.

When it comes to police reform, President Joe Biden is now caught in a trap of his own making. In an attempt to appease the radical base of his party before the midterm elections, the president recently signed an executive order that would establish a national registry of officers who’ve been discharged for misconduct and restrict the transfer of certain kinds of equipment to law enforcement agencies.   

Such actions mark a reversal from the President’s previous position in support of more funding and training for law enforcement officers. These actions will likely have disastrous consequences on Democrats – as the Left’s aggressive, anti-police movement has backfired.   

He had an opportunity to make a full commitment to law enforcement officers Thursday night in front of a national television audience. He focused on gun control instead and never mentioned them. 

In the country's largest cities, violent crime has risen between 5 and 40% since 2021, with New York showing the greatest increase. The city has recorded 43,244 violent crime incidents since May of 2021 compared to 30,754 incidents the year before.  

In response to the uptick in violence, many Democrats have retreated from their calls for "defund the police" policies, a sure sign that even they lack faith in their own direction. For example, New York Mayor Eric Adams, known as the face of the new Democratic Party, says that New Yorkers need to support local law enforcement.   

In April, he called for an increase in the city’s police budget and agreed to hire nearly 600 new officers. More recently, Adams called for every newspaper, billboard and radio station to discuss the importance of supporting police and plans to launch a full-scale public relations campaign to encourage all Americans to back the police amid recent violence.  

Similarly, mainstream Democratic leaders reject the anti-police sentiment of their progressive counterparts. They blame the far left and the defund the police movement for the party’s poor turnout in the 2021 election cycle.  

Voters confirm the sentiment. In Nassau County, Long Island, long-time Democrat voters cited the defund the police movement as their reason for voting Republican in 2021.  

In fact, fewer than one in five Americans support the defund the police movement as of March 2022. Only 28 percent of black voters and 34 percent of Democrats expressed support for the movement.  

Clearly, escalating crime rates have brought many to their senses. Congressional radicals, however, still cling to their anti-police agenda.  

They met the president’s State of the Union speech with hostility and called for greater restrictions on policing despite the rising crime rates. Now they have the gall to blame the pandemic and poverty for rising crime.   

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report made the fantastic claim that, in effect, the risk of death by gun violence can only be alleviated by reducing pandemic-induced poverty. Experts, on the other hand, argue that the pandemic has little to do with the rise in crime. Instead, they say that crime has much to do with something called the Ferguson effect, the idea that when police hold back, crime spikes.    

The Ferguson effect first surfaced after a 2014 police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that spurred protests and riots nationwide. Crime increased after the incident because police grew more hesitant to enforce the law.  

Police know their actions come under strict scrutiny from the public and that sometimes, legitimate uses of force "look bad on video." To avoid a public outcry over a justified use of force, police often "police less."  

We saw this effect play out in 2020, a year of civil unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd. As protesters called to defund the police and rallied behind the Black Lives Matter movement, crime rose by 30 percent compared to 2019. In fact, the 2020 crime spike occurred immediately after the death of George Floyd, months after the pandemic began.  

Progressives’ anti-police agendas may have caused law enforcement to police less from fear of public backlash to the detriment of all Americans.   

Nevertheless, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Gina Viola, a liberal activist supported by several members of Black Lives Matter, attacks police as part of her campaign: "White supremacy is codified into our legal system created to build White wealth, and law enforcement is its watchdog."  

By agreeing to what the far-left touts as "police reform" measures, Biden risks exacerbating the rise in violence while alienating millions of Americans who see the value of strong law enforcement. His action marks the culmination of pressure from liberal lawmakers and activists alike whose social agendas ignore the facts.  

He needs to reverse course and make a full commitment to law enforcement now.