Martin Hackworth NEW

Martin Hackworth

It appears to me that progressives have figured out that the “defund the police” narrative isn’t much of a winner for them. Most people actually like their local police, or, at the very least, appreciate how hard it is to do what they do. Every time defunding the police comes up as a progressive talking point, their poll numbers start to sink like a lead balloon on Jupiter.

This being the case, progressives are beginning to abandon the “defund” narrative and, instead, chip away around the edges of law enforcement. There have been, for instance, suggestions that traffic stops not be made by armed police (or made at all), suggestions that domestic violence and suspected mental health calls be made by social workers instead of cops.

The former of these is pretty ridiculous, reminding me of the Key & Peele “Standoff” clip (Google it). What are unarmed ticket agents supposed to do when the pull over a car with a trunk full of meth? Ask the driver to turn him/herself in, pretty please?

The latter of these is not completely beyond the realm of reason. A team approach might be just the thing for addressing domestic violence or suspected mental health calls. But good luck sending social workers out on these calls by themselves. I can’t wait to see who signs up for that.

In my view, the entire “defund the police” narrative is based on an opportunistic reading of the data concerning the use of lethal or potentially lethal force by the police. Police shootings are actually very rare events, and when they do occur, more whites people, by a fair number, are shot, than Black people.

It’s only when the statistics are adjusted for Black people as a percentage of the general population that their numbers stand out. And if you quit looking right there, it’s easy to become agitated. But when you further adjust the numbers to account interactions with police as a function of race, it again makes sense. Black people are involved in far more interactions with police, as a percentage of the general population, than any other group. Nothing about this makes me happy, but it is what it is. Perhaps we should start looking for solutions there.

In places where the police have been successfully “defunded,” typically through unaddressed attrition and budget freezes, crime has increased — in some cases, quite significantly.

I’m reasonably sure that most Americans agree with me that defunding police in any way, shape, form, manner or style is the mother of all bad ideas.

Yet progressives persist, albeit stealthily. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently conducting reviews of police departments to look for evidence of systematic racism in policing — something that I’m sure will be a big hit with the few cops who are left in the affected departments.

Good luck trying to recruit anyone to be a cop. Who’d want to walk into any of this?

None of this means that we can’t improve policing. I think that there’s plenty of room for better training, and better strategy and tactics when dealing with the public. It also doesn’t mean that the police are not sometimes flat out wrong. They are. But none of this gets fixed by defunding police. If anything, defunding makes all of this worse.

I’ve watched just about every bit of footage shown on the news that’s been held up as evidence of systematic police racism against Black people. In a few cases, it’s completely clear that the police were wrong. In others, it’s evident that a mistake was made, but it’s easy to see how it could happen given the volatility of the situation. In the majority of cases, however, I see non-compliant, combative, potentially dangerous suspects engaged in struggles with police. In those cases, I think that the dead people helped themselves get dead.

I think that George Floyd should still be alive. It’s apparent to me that even though Floyd was non-compliant and in the grips of a possibly drug-induced mental health crisis, too much force was used in his arrest. In this case, the arresting officer did not demonstrate sufficient care for Mr. Floyd’s wellbeing. He’s going to jail for it, too.

That said, Floyd, who was reported to the police for passing a counterfeit $20 bill, would still be alive had he simply followed the arresting officer’s orders and gotten in the police car. Just as Michael Brown would still be alive had he not attacked the officer who attempted to arrest him after Brown assaulted a clerk while stealing from a convenient store.

In each of these cases, and in many others held up as examples of systematic racism, the people who ended up dead at the hands of police would still be alive had they just complied with instructions. That’s generally how you avoid getting shot by police. You can argue all you want that the police response was inappropriate, but when you engage in a struggle with police, you ought to know that the outcome is not likely to be great for you.

Unless you are willing to acknowledge that there’s at least some truth in this, I’m not much interested in your ideas of what’s wrong with policing.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time with family, riding mountain bikes and motorcycles and playing guitars. His video blog, “Howlin’ at the Moon in ii-V-I,” may be found at facebook.com/HowlinattheMoonin251 and on YouTube at bit.ly/2SN745k.