Law and order was largely kept off the agenda by debate moderators in this election season because they were all sympathetic to Democrats.
The 2020 election is taking place in the midst of unrest in major cities, rising violent crime, racial tension, clashes between protesters and police, and heightened political polarization.
Residents of cities plagued by Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots have also been roiled by police budget cuts, thanks to the Defund the Police movement.
Democrats are slashing police department budgets to please protesters while they are rampaging, commiting violent acts and looting — triggering chaos.
Even though several cities are under siege, the concerns of these residents have largely been ignored by political pundits and the media.
The Justice Department last month labeled New York, Seattle, and Portland as anarchist jurisdictions. They are in danger of losing federal funding because the administration believes they have failed to rein in “violence and destruction of property.”
The city of Minneapolis, rocked by violence and riots all summer has been radically transformed.
Looting and vandalism have shaken the once peaceful city after it became the epicenter of anti-police protests following the death of George Floyd — a black man who was killed while in the custody of white police officers.
Floyd’s death triggered nationwide calls from racial justice protesters for funds to be stripped from law enforcement and directed to social programs.
The Democratically controlled city council and Mayor Jacob Frey released a budget plan for fiscal year 2021 on Sept. 22. It proposes slashing city police department spending by $14 million.
Last month protesters attacked a Seattle officer with a baseball bat and attempted to burn down the department’s East Precinct during a protest in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, but they are demanding that 50% of the SPD’s budget be redirected to other needs.
A record number of Seattle police officers left the department in September, double the highest of any month on record.
Downtown Seattle has lost approximately 125 businesses due to crime and unrest, the Downtown Seattle Association said.
The Seattle City Council is pushing for deep cuts to policing, including a 10.5% reduction in patrol operations and precinct funding. Cuts could include eliminating 47 vacant officer positions and a salary reduction for both sworn and civilian employees, totaling more than $22 million.
The proposal includes adding a full-time Office of Police Accountability Investigations supervisor.
Council Member Tammy Morales who wants to cut SPD’s budget in half said Tuesday: “Most of the 911 calls that are made are not for crimes, are nuisance calls and we can’t demonstrate that random patrols actually prevent crime or protect the public.”
Council Member Teresa Mosqueda said a simple solution to help decrease the need for police would be to have a registered nurse at the 911 call center. She said many of the calls were medical, therefore it would reduce the number of patrol officers required in the field.
Public safety expert Scott Lindsay expressed alarm on local Fox affiliate Q13 News at misinformed council members who don’t have a basic understanding of how 911 calls are managed.
“In fact in 2019, only 6% of the Seattle Police dispatch responses were for anything you could call a nuisance,” Lindsay said.
“Those calls that are medical emergencies are already routed to the fire department, they don’t impact patrol numbers, a fundamental misunderstanding that’s coming from the budget chair,” he noted.
Lindsay said some calls can be handled by social workers but data shows only 1.5% of the 911 calls from 2019 would have just required a social worker alone.
Many of the 911 calls are non-criminal but still high priority incidents, including saving someone from a suicide, car accidents and missing people.
“City council needs to really explain what these alternatives will look like before we move to cutting the police department budget,” Lindsay said.
Former Seattle police chief Carmen Best, who retired last month in protest over plans to slash the budget and workforce of the SPD, debuted on Friday morning on NBC News’ Today as an NBC News and MSNBC contributor.
She is also working with KING 5, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, as a law-enforcement analyst.
“There aren’t that many people who have been police chiefs of major cities who can talk about that experience, especially in this era of social reckoning, race and social justice and all the other societal issues that are coming to bear,” Best said in a phone interview with King 5 Thursday.
“We’re at the precipice, the cusp, of a lot of change that will set the trajectory for the future. We need to get it right because the stakes are very high.”
The number of shooting victims nearly doubled from last year, statistics show. In 2019, 762 people were reported shot, compared to 1,515 so far this year.
Police officials blame gang feuds and budget cuts, which have strained resources, for much of the violence. The NYPD has lost at least 2,500 police officers through attrition.
Last month police made 607 such arrests, a 98 percent increase compared to a year ago, the police said. They attributed more than half of shootings to rival gang members fighting over turf, romantic triangles and music. Investigators said gang-related shootings often lead to an endless cycle of retaliations.
Three police academy classes have also been eliminated and a cut of nearly 60 percent in overtime has been budgeted for uniformed police officers.
Protests and civil unrest have taken a toll on the city of Portland. Many undecided voters are unhappy with Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler’s handling of law and order.
Business owners in downtown Portland, who are beseiged by shoplifters and burglars, have been complaining that they feel unprotected after several months of riots.
The latest poll conducted by DHM Research and OPB released last week found a three-way tie in the Portland mayoral race between undecided voters (28%), incumbent Ted Wheeler (33%) and his progressive challenger Sarah Iannarone (34%).
The poll also found 6% plan to write in Teressa Raiford, the activist and founder of Don’t Shoot PDX.
Data from the Portland Police Bureau showed at least 70 officers, including patrol officers and captains have left the department this year due to a hiring freeze.
In the first 5 months of the year, officers got to burglary calls, on average, in 36 minutes, but response time nearly tripled to 90 minutes from June to September while the city experienced ongoing demonstrations.
A spokesperson from Wheeler’s office said in a statement: “Response times did slow during the peak of protest activity. That’s a significant concern for the Mayor. The Police Bureau’s ongoing investigations and targeted arrests appear to have reduced the energy around illegal activities tied to anarchists and other people engaged in ideologically driven criminal activity. As a result, we are beginning to redeploy more officers to the precincts and response times appear to be coming down. The Mayor is committed to working with the Police Bureau and his colleagues on the City Council to ensure everyone in our community feels safe and to ensure that people who engage in illegal activities are investigated, arrested and prosecuted.”