BY DEMETRIUS MINOR | Project 21
OPINION (PROJECT 21) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a Defund the Police problem. “Make no mistake, community safety is our responsibility,” Pelosi told ABC‘s George Stephanopoulos during an interview on Sunday. “I quote one my colleagues from New York, Ritchie Torres, brand new member of Congress, way on the Left, saying that defund the police is dead.”
You know who doesn’t have to talk about Defund the Police being dead? A party whose members aren’t still spreading the slogan. And yet, facing a daunting electoral challenge in the upcoming midterms, members of the Democratic Party are still on the Defund train.
Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) recently promised to double down on the slogan, even in the run-up to the midterms. “‘Defund the police’ is not the problem,” she said. “We dangled the carrot in front of people’s faces and said we can get it done and that Democrats deliver, when we haven’t totally delivered.”
“That’s not the position of the Democratic Party, with all due respect to Cori Bush,” Pelosi countered. “Community safety to protect and defend in every way is our oath of office.”
Pelosi is not alone in seeing the slogan as presaging a doomsday scenario for the Democrats come November. “I think allowing this moniker, ‘Defund the police,’ to ever get out there, was not a good thing,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison complained after a proposal to revamp the Minneapolis Police Department failed at the ballot box last November. And in a meeting earlier this month with New York City mayor Eric Adam, President Biden himself expressed his disagreement with the toxic phrase. “The answer is not to defund the police, it’s to give you the tools, the training, the funding, to be partners [and] to be protectors,” he said.
This is not to say that the police are perfect. It would be a disservice to history, especially during Black History Month, to ignore the distrust and apprehension the black people have toward law enforcement, due in part to racial profiling and stereotypes that have inflicted the Black community. According to the National Academy of Sciences, over the course of a lifetime, Black men face a one in 1,000 risk of being killed during an encounter with police, a rate much higher than that of white men.
While this is a concern that needs to be acknowledged and addressed, defunding the police isn’t a viable solution. When asked, Black Americans tell pollsters they would opt for a consistent police presence to be visible in their local communities; according to a Gallup poll administered in August 2020, 81 percent of Black Americans opposed the Defund the Police campaign.
With the Democrats in disarray over how to address the complex needs of Black Americans when it comes to the police, the oblivious posture of progressive Democrats pandering so poorly to Black Americans on public safety gives conservatives a great opportunity to actually provide solutions instead of meaningless lip service.
Republicans do have weapons in their arsenal when it comes to combating police brutality and initiating reform. Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican senator, pushed reform to the forefront—until negotiations ended over defunding the police, according to. Sen. Scott. “We said simply this: ‘I’m not going to participate in reducing funding for the police after we saw a major city after major city defund the police.’ Many provisions in this bill [Democrats] wanted me to agree to limited or reduced funding for the police.”
But Sen. Scott isn’t the only Black conservative pushing for solutions. Project 21, a vast network of Black conservative leadership across the county, issued a blueprint for improving public safety, which includes getting police departments out of the regulation business, disarming federal agencies that do not have a direct role in law enforcement and reprogramming those funds to local police departments to improve community relations, and providing special training for law enforcement in identifying and responding to people with autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other developmental and mental disabilities.
It is simply not enough to decry what we’ve witnessed in history. We shouldn’t ignore the perils of the past. But simply providing data isn’t enough. It is time to put our words into action.
Conservatives must take advantage of an atmosphere that is ripe for political and cultural movement. Black Americans don’t won’t to see a system of protection become completely eradicated, because it makes them more vulnerable and at-risk. But they also want to see conservatives speak up for them—loudly and boldly—and to fight against the progressive narrative that they don’t care about those in marginalized communities.
The time to do this is right now.
Project 21 member Demetrius Minor is a preacher, advocate, relationship builder, and a writer. He has been the director of coalitions in Florida for Americans for Prosperity, where he worked in partnership with the NAACP. This was first published at Newsweek.