Defunding the Police Ahead of the 2024 Election: A “Smart” Strategy?

defunding word painted on the middle of the streeet

Following the protests that swept the nation in 2020, the issue of defunding the police has become a major flashpoint in American politics. It played a pivotal role in November of that year, and throughout the ensuing years, its policies were enacted in a handful of U.S. cities. Now that the 2024 presidential election looms, it’s time for the debate to heat up again.

The difference? This time, we have seen the results of “defunding” policies first-hand. Will this be enough to sway voters? Will this be our chance to pivot back – or to sink deeper?

What is Defunding Supposed to Be About?

The “defund the police” slogan originated from activists calling for a reallocation of some law enforcement funding toward other community resources like social services, education, and alternatives to policing. Proponents argue that too much money goes toward militarizing police while other programs that address the root causes of crime get shortchanged. They point to high-profile police killings of Black Americans as evidence of systemic problems requiring fundamental changes.

The logic seemed solid on paper: by spending less money on armament, city councils could tackle some of the social issues that help feed crime. However, this ideology made two serious assumptions:

  • First, that criminals are solely created due to poverty or hunger, and that nobody would commit a crime if they saw a “legal” alternative.
  • Second, all the budget cuts would come from “surplus” or “excess” spending on fancy weaponry rather than essentials such as salaries or patrolling equipment.

Furthermore, for many politicians on the opposing side, the movement has turned into a relentless attack on the police itself. In addition to budget cuts, the media has painted many law enforcement officers as “the enemy,” subject to ever-stricter legal restrictions designed by people with no street experience. For that side of the arena, the defunding movement has made communities less safe and enabled lawlessness.

The Numbers Behind the Ideas

As the election cycle heats up, the police funding debate is emerging as a proxy for the larger ideological clash over racial justice, public safety strategies, and what role government should play in addressing societal issues. Candidates are staking out positions that could motivate or alienate key voting blocs.

But behind these ideologies hides the data – revealing a deep danger for the American citizenry. Laws based on the “defunding” concept began to pass shortly after the new Administration took over, both at the local and state levels.

The impact? In many of these cities, crime rates have spiked tremendously. Cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis rank among the country’s most dangerous places. In addition, police departments across the country—especially in rural or small-town jurisdictions—faced acute staffing crises. Officers resigned or transferred in droves, recruitment numbers went stagnant, and in some cases, entire police forces had to shut down.

This Year, Voters Have the Power – Especially at the Local Level

The 2024 election is a critical juncture that will help determine the trajectory of law enforcement and public safety priorities across America in the years ahead.  As the bitter partisan fighting rages, voters need to get engaged, study where the candidates stand, and make their voices heard.

Fortunately, not everyone is eager to gamble everything on political alignment. For those seeking to see safer cities and content officers, the priority should be numbers and results. This is simplest at the local level: a simple look at each candidate’s past trajectories and statements will reveal whether they are friends of the police or will leave a criminal-friendly city in their wake.

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Instead of "Defund the Police," We at The United Police Fund Say: "Defend the Police!"