Daily Bread for 8.22.21: ‘Defund the Police’ Was a Molehill

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be mostly sunny with a high of 80. Sunrise is 6:10 AM and sunset 7:44 PM, for 13h 34m 45s of daytime.  The moon is full with 100% of its visible disk illuminated.

 On this day in 1963, X-15 Flight 91 reaches the highest altitude of the X-15 program (67.08 mi).

 Bruce Murphy writes Police Were Defunded Before George Floyd (‘253 municipalities in state cut police funding in 2019 for budget reasons, report finds’):

The call for police defunding, which arose in the wake of George Floyd‘s killing in May 2020 by a police office in Minneapolis, has created controversy across the nation. In Wisconsin, Republicans passed legislation, which was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, which would have reduced state shared revenue payments to municipalities that decreased their spending on police and fire departments.

But in fact, hundreds of local governments across the state had already reduced funding for police departments in 2019, as a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum reveals. “The data show 253 municipalities decreased the dollar amount spent on all law enforcement activities,” the  report noted. “This includes large cities (Milwaukee, Green Bay), suburbs (Bayside, Grafton, Stoughton, Verona), and a number of very small communities, including 144 municipalities with fewer than 2,000 residents. In fact, all but 10 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties had at least one municipality that decreased its police budget in 2019. ”

Total spending on law enforcement for all municipalities actually increased by 1.3%, from $1.21 billion in 2018 to $1.23 billion in 2019, with 461 municipalities increasing their spending on police, the report found. But the 253 local governments that did cut funding in 2019 shows that this is commonly done by communities, not to reform police departments, but to balance their budgets.

“Wisconsin municipalities have been operating under strict property tax limits for more than a decade,” the report notes. Meanwhile, state-shared revenue has been declining for about 20 years. This has squeezed local budgets across the state and “likely [has] contributed to the difficulties faced by municipalities in maintaining police and fire department budgets and staffing,” the report finds.

That, in turn, impacted police staffing. “From 2018 to 2019, 79 Wisconsin police departments reported increasing their sworn officers, while 59 decreased them,” the report found.

Whitewater, for example, saw a decrease (2018-2019) in funding before George Floyd was murdered. It wasn’t ideology that drove those cuts; it was the pressure of budgetary constraints the city faces. Indeed, the Wisconsin Policy Forum remarks that

“In both Dollar for Dollar and a report we released last September, we noted that as municipal budgets have tightened for various reasons, local officials have attempted to shield police departments from cuts. As a result, those departments now take up a larger share of municipal budgets than a generation ago.”

I’ve never supported a political effort to defund the police, as against simply balancing a municipal budget.

Whitewater’s residents who worried, by the way, about ideological defunding of the police department were overwrought (and politically ignorant of the city’s actual politics). Whitewater was never going to defund her police department for ideological reasons, and any right-wing populist or two thinking otherwise could fittingly be described as politically obtuse. See Built Against Substantive Change.  

The issue has faded nationally, as major figures in the Democratic Party have opposed the idea. (Biden, for example, never took up that cause.)  Defunding is so weak that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) could recently turn GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) attempt to re-ignite the issue into a 99-0 vote against defunding:

‘Defunding the police’ was a molehill (which, for those who need a reminder, looks nothing like a mountain).

How High-Quality Japanese Cutlery Is Made:

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