Biden’s Gonna Fund The Police So Much They’ll Be Too Busy Counting Their Money To Kill Black People
Perhaps the biggest bipartisan applause moment during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that didn’t involve dragging Vladimir Putin came when he vowed to rain cool, hard cash on the police:
We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them. Fund them with resources and training.
Everyone knows that the “Defund the Police” slogan is why George Floyd was murdered and Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her own bed. Someone needed to stop the slogan before it killed again. White moderates who are at no risk from police violence have graciously offered some replacements like “Defund Police Brutality” or “Fund Police Accountability” or “Maybe Only Kill Half As Many Black People This Year.” Those are all greatly appreciated, but Biden didn’t actually unveil a new police reform slogan Tuesday night like an updated iPhone. He was more like Tim Cook shrugging and saying, “Let’s give that 1990s iMac another shot.”
I’m told that Biden was just doing that wonderful bipartisan triangulation where on the surface, he's directly appealing to white suburbanites but if you read between the lines and squint hard, what he’s really saying is, “We’re going to fix police violence with more resources and training.” The problem is that American law enforcement is systemically broken. If you fund additional resources and training for the mob, you can assume they’ll use it to become more efficient mobsters with flashier pinky rings. Sure, it’d be nice if they used that extra money to move away from their whacking lifestyle, but you don’t want to take that on faith.
We’ve been through this already: The police collectively don’t believe they need better training and have frequently insisted the actions that result in dead Black people is the product of all that great training. Cops don’t “oopsie” into lethal choke holds. This is how they’re trained, and if you ban the choke hold, you might as well let murderers run rampant through the streets.
The police are deliberately trained to become a militaristic, occupying force that sees every civilian (especially within communities of color) as a potential lethal threat. New York Times columnist David Brooks of all people acknowledged this in a feature for The Atlantic, "The Culture of Policing Is Broken":
Recruits are told that a guy with a knife 21 feet away can run up and stab you before you have the chance to draw your gun. Even when your gun is drawn on someone with his back turned, he can pivot and pull his trigger before you have the chance to fire. Recruits listen to the desperate radio cries of officers killed in the line of duty, and the message is: Don’t ever let this happen to you. When in doubt, as the saying goes, it is “better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.”
Democrats rightly don’t want to lose elections to MAGA dolts because of what they believe is bad messaging. What’s important to understand is that it’s not just “Defund the Police” that’s a “bad message,” it’s police reform in general. Democrats did try to negotiate police reform after George Floyd’s murder, but Republicans gutted anything meaningful, such as ending qualified immunity, before Senator Tim Scott torpedoed the deal outright. He later accused Democrats, including his buddy Cory Booker, of trying to defund the police, even though the bill would’ve offered more funds for "mental health resources, data collection, officer recruitment and body cameras." Scott selectively defined “defunding” as not rewarding the police departments that keep Derek Chauvins on the force.
SCOTT: Here's what we know: We have about $1 billion in grant money that goes to police. When you start saying, "In order to receive those dollars, you must do A, B and C. And if you don't do A, B and C, you literally lose eligibility for the two major pots of money — the Byrne grants and the COP grants — when you tell local law enforcement agencies that you are ineligible for money, that's defunding the police, there's no way to spin that.
Cops have happily profited off BS reforms — like in Seattle, where the police department added training sessions to comply with a 2012 court agreement with the US Department of Justice that required Seattle to curb excessive force and biased policing. Officer Ron Morgan Willis made a fortune in overtime pay while running these sessions that produced no constructive results. However, police have consistently protested most bitterly whenever one of their own is held accountable for hospitalizing an old man or shooting a suspect in the back.
The police are untouchable “made men,” and Americans of all races will desperately pony up what’s required to maintain their “protection.” The Black victims of police violence whose names become trending hashtags are considered the collateral damage from preserving law and order. Push the police too hard, demand too much — as in any — accountability and they’ll just quit. Then where you will be? In The Purge, that’s where!
In 2019, Biden admitted that supporting some of the more draconian measures in the 1994 crime bill was a “big mistake.” But it was the same pattern: Democrats needed to present as “tough on crime” and they couldn’t stop to think about the fallout on already vulnerable communities. President Bill Clinton said at the time:
"Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools," he said. "Every day, we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder."
Criminologists have since confirmed that the “soaring murder rates and violent crime had already begun what would become a long downward turn” when the crime bill was passed. Improving economic conditions can do more than cops cracking skulls, but more cops became indelibly linked with safer streets. And it’s happening again.
Biden’s remarks are probably a sound political move, but don’t pretend that it has anything to do with actual police reform. I once believed the “bad apple” theory of law enforcement and then I started talking to the “good apples.” All I can do now is hope my son and I don’t become the next trending hashtag.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."