A proposal to cut 20 percent of the Vermont State Police budget has been urged by three progressive Vermont lawmakers, which would amount to almost $13 million. The proposed cut accompanies a similar effort in Burlington; there is a push there to also cut the city’s police force. Other cities are also looking at their police forces, including ours in St. Albans.
The motivation behind the calls to cut law enforcement budgets is entirely defensible. The people doing so are pushing to change the dynamic between the police and the public, to reduce the violence, and to support the “black lives matter” movement sweeping the nation.
The problem is that those proposing the cuts don’t paint a convincing picture of how it would work, who does without police protection, or how it would reduce the violence or improve the relationships between blacks and the police. The thinking is that if there are fewer police there are fewer incidents. It’s a little like saying there are some poor teachers in our schools, so let’s cut the number of teachers. Cutting the number of police officers doesn’t reduce the level of crime, nor does it guarantee a reduction in the number of inexcusable outcomes between officers and the public.
If the argument is reduced to this single point, it’s a lost cause. According to national polls, 72 percent of Americans support their local police departments, a response that grows as the size of the community gets smaller. Even in large cities the idea of simply defunding the police doesn’t get much traction if the public believes the result is more crime not less. President Trump is making law and order one of the three pillars of his reelection campaign and Democrats play to his advantage if they allow the president to claim that position.
So what is the best response for Democrats? The answer is for former Vice President Joe Biden to name Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, as his running mate. The timing could not be better, the choice clearer, or the potential advantage more profound.
Mr. Biden has already committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. The national protests following the George Floyd’s killing make it all the more apparent that a black woman would add even more heft to the ticket. She also has the advantage of having already been publicly vetted during her own presidential campaign. She served as California’s attorney general and as a district attorney for San Francisco. And she’s been a leading figure in the ongoing debate in Washington, D.C. And of all the contenders for the vice presidency, Ms. Harris has the leadership experience to be president should Mr. Biden’s health prove to be an issue. [He would be 78 years old at his inauguration. She’s 55.]
Mr. Biden has made it clear he does not favor the defunding of police. He’s smart enough politically to know how vulnerable that would make him. But he also doesn’t have the credibility Ms. Harris has to step into the fray, proposing specific actions, such as the demand for a national “use of force” standard. She’s also the standard bearer for ideas aimed at addressing economic and racial injustices.
Ms. Harris is the perfect counter to the president’s effort to push the Democrats too far to the left on public safety issues. As a state’s attorney it was her job to put the bad guys away. [Which got her into political trouble with the party’s far left.]
It’s Ms. Harris’ unique position — being a black woman in America, having extensive law enforcement experience, and an admirable record as a United States Senator — that make her far and away the best choice for Mr. Biden’s running mate. With Ms. Harris’s voice leading the chorus, we could then begin to put the details in place that build far beyond the short term political suggestion of simply defunding the police.
by Emerson Lynn