Don’t hamstring cops when trimming the fat

Reforming law enforcement agencies where the stain of bigotry remains a threat to the public is important. We have no doubt the vast majority of men and women in the profession agree with that.

But hamstringing them is not the answer. It not only discriminates against good cops, it also has dangerous to the public.

Yet some public officials remain committed to “defunding” law enforcement simply to placate a few unthinking constituents. An example of the phenomenon is playing out in Minneapolis.

There, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a few police officers, there were a few calls to disband the police department entirely. That evolved into demands law enforcement be defunded to the extent it could not function.

To his enormous credit, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a young, reform-minded leader himself, said he would veto any attempt by the city council to reduce staffing on the police department.

Council’s reaction has been to approve a budget that on paper keeps police staffing level, but cuts $8 million from the department’s budget. Frey has said he will sign the spending plan.

It is true that the $8 million cut would leave Minneapolis police with a $171 million budget. Let us hope law enforcement officials can find ways to cope with that without reducing the quality of service to the public.

Eight million dollars is a lot of money, however. How will the cuts be achieved? Less spending on overtime pay for officers who are needed in emergencies? Holding on to worn-out cruisers instead of trading them in? Reduced training for officers, perhaps?

Make no mistake about it: Most bureaucracies, including law enforcement, have some fat in their budgets. Trimming it is a good idea.

But “defunding” proponents everywhere need to ensure they do not go beyond cutting the fat.

Again, many law enforcement agencies need reforms. They should be made. Purely punitive action — cutting police budgets solely to be able to proclaim one has done something about public demands for change — should be rejected.


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