#FundThePolice or #FaceTheConsequences 

#FundThePolice or #FaceTheConsequences 
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In October of 2005, then Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy stood outside a police station in the crime-ridden Parisian suburb of Argenteuil in the midst of some of the worst anti-police rioting and violent protests in modern France. As bricks pelted the entourage, a frightened woman shouted out to him from the window of her housing project apartment above. His response changed French politics. “You have had enough of this band of rabble? Well, we are going to take care of them for you.”

His comment, though controversial at the time, acknowledged one truth: that there are many people who appreciate law enforcement and the safe communities they provide, even when the most vocal crowds in the neighborhood denounce the police. Two years later, though Sarkozy’s law and order attitude was widely criticized by the left, he sailed to victory in the French presidential election, handily winning the first and second rounds.

In 2020, America faces an even wider gap between the far-left proponents of #DefundThePolice and the bulk of the American electorate. A recent ABC/Ipsos poll shows just one-third of Americans support the concept of defunding the police; and as for independent voters, a Morning Consult poll shows just 26 percent support the movement.


Yet here in the Big Apple, holding their protest signs and marching in the streets with their armed police security details, New York’s political elite have set about turning this catchy hashtag into city policy.

Details be damned, as there is no clear understanding what #DefundThePolice actually means; but one thing is for sure, whether the cuts are $1 billion today or $1 billion over four years, the reduction of uniformed and civilian positions through attrition and possible layoffs remains the same. The city council estimates a new NYPD featuring just 33,000 officers; far lower than it was in the early 2000s when the department was forced to expand its counterterrorism and intelligence divisions after 9/11.

Recent NYPD classes have been touted for their diversity, and rightly so. The department has made tremendous gains recruiting from all communities in New York City. If ending racism — that of individual officers and police institutions — is a stated goal of the #DefundThePolice movement, it remains to be seen how a hiring freeze and lay-offs of recent hires, a majority of whom are people of color, would address that goal. This will be a sad consequence of poorly thought-out policy-by-hashtag governing.

The proposed overall headcount should concern work-a-day New Yorkers for another reason. The last time the number of uniformed police officers, including the city’s separate housing and transit police departments, was below 34,000 was in fiscal year 1990. That year, there were seven times the amount of murders and robberies than there were in 2019; there were eleven times the burglaries and twenty-seven times the car thefts. Criminals roamed the streets with impunity, while frightened residents hid in their apartments. The police commissioner at the time, Lee P. Brown, realized that the only way to rid the rabble was to have more police, not less, in visible roles and regularly engaging with members of the community. This required a higher headcount.

Numbers alone were not enough. The police needed to be proactive. The idea that the authorities needed to be tougher on criminals to protect the innocent took root, much like it did over a decade later for Sarkozy.


Enter Rudolph W. Giuliani, who, amidst the Crown Heights riots; a fiscal crisis; and a breakdown of police-community relations; was able to make the case that the city’s leadership was incompetent to face these challenges. On election night in 1993, 4 out of 10 voters listed crime as their number one concern, and rewarded Mr. Giuliani with a narrow victory. It was more than just Republicans who voted for him, as thousands of moderate Democrats crossed the aisle to flee a party which ditched responsible reforms for political pandering.

Violent crime is already on the rise in New York City this year, and shootings hit old milestones on a recent weekend. Many New Yorkers have already pushed back against progressive criminal justice policy, like bail reform, as partial causes, and we should expect more. Amidst 2020’s riots, financial woes, and a poorly managed pandemic response, it is not hard to imagine a growing feeling in the electorate that the current administration is as up to the task as those in office in the early 90s. A continued spike in crime as NYPD headcount shrinks will fan those flames.

Responsible Democrats in office must take a look at the lessons of the past and learn from them. Following through on the #defundthepolice hashtag and a subsequent rise in crime may awaken the silent majority, as it has countless times before.

Joseph Borelli is the minority whip of the New York City Council, a spokesman for the N.Y. State GOP and state co-Chairman of Trump 2020. He's also a Republican commentator, professor and Lindsay Fellow at the City University of New York's Institute for State and Local Governance. He has been published in the NY Daily News, Washington Examiner, and appears on Fox News, Fox Business, BBC, CNN and HLN. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeBorelliNYC.