Guest Op-Ed: Defend, Don’t Defund the Police

A bad idea has taken hold in the wake of the rallies protesting the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Defund the Police is the rallying cry for this radical response.

We’ve seen versions of the movement take hold even here in Massachusetts. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, for example, pledged just weeks ago to reallocate $12 million of the Boston Police Department’s overtime budget to social services.

Nothing’s more important than the safety of our communities, and we in Massachusetts are fortunate to have highly educated, professional police officers patrolling our streets. I say, defend, don’t defund, the police.

The videotape of Mr. Floyd’s murder is sickening. Many good Americans took to the streets to protest his murder, and to decry racial bias and discrimination in our criminal justice system. I applaud these peaceful protests. We must ensure that Americans, regardless of race, creed, sex, orientation, or economic station, are treated fairly and equally by all government actors.

But to leap from there to Defunding the Police, a mantra that has taken hold even among members of our Congressional delegation, is a bad idea. Mr. Floyd’s memory will not be honored by adopting a radical policy that would produce more crime and reduce public safety. And a broad-brush repudiation of our country’s 800,000 officers in blue is flat out wrong.

Those supporting Defund the Police conveniently forget that every violent crime has a victim. They suggest that funds spent on police should be reallocated to social services, in a misguided belief that criminals are simply misunderstood.

Our communities rely on our police to keep peace and prevent crime. We need our police most in underserved neighborhoods where people are often hardest hit by violent crime.

Vulnerable populations–women, children, people of color, and the elderly– would be even more at risk without public policing. People feeling threatened would be more likely to take the law into their own hands, a response to fear that rarely ends well. And those with means will find a way to buy protection, creating an even bigger gap between the rich and the poor.

There are some bad people in law enforcement, just as there are bad people in every field. We must review all police practices to assure that we are providing equal protection to all under the law. But most police officers are good people. They are our neighbors, our relatives, and our friends. We must defend our police, not defund them.

We rightly recognize our police as heroes in the wake of terrorist attacks such as the Marathon Bombing and 9/11. These honorable members of our communities put their lives on the line every day to defend us. We owe it to them — and to ourselves — to provide the best possible training, responsible oversight, and adequate resources for them to do their jobs.

And we owe them respect and gratitude for their bravery and public service. Both Democrat candidates for US Senate, incumbent Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Joe Kennedy III, have come out in support of the Defund the Police movement.

Both have also pledged to “divest” themselves of any support from police associations, even going so far as to return donations they previously accepted from our police. We deserve much better. Better strategies to make sure what happened to George Floyd never happens again out there. Better training and hiring practices, more comprehensive oversight, and a strengthened ability to identify and root out problems would be a good place to start.

But defund the police? We’d be smarter to defund Congress.

Kevin O’Connor is a Republican Candidate for U.S Senate.

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