The push to abolish police departments and replace law enforcement officers with social service workers would be ineffective and dangerous, putting social workers in harm’s way and limiting the ability of police to fight crime, according to a Manhattan Institute report published Wednesday.
Arguments to defund the police began in earnest following the death of George Floyd last summer, but since then activists’ demands have grown even more extreme, Manhattan Institute fellow and former Washington Free Beacon staff writer Charles Fain Lehman argues. Whereas yesterday’s radicals preached a mere reduction in the police force, today’s radicals, like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), want to jettison law enforcement entirely. By abandoning the use of force, replacing cops with unarmed social workers, and reallocating police budgets into education, health, and welfare initiatives, advocates plan “not to reform the police but to replace them,” the report states.
But the evidence doesn’t support this conclusion. First, a review of alternative crime-reducing strategies, such as deescalation training, crisis intervention teams, and so-called violence interrupters, shows nothing is as successful in reducing crime as police presence. Not only that, but the effectiveness of these alternatives, which eschew the use of force, can’t be analyzed apart from the police already working alongside them. The programs do not consistently reduce arrests, injuries, or excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) slashed $350 million from the NYPD’s budget last year in favor of “violence interrupters,” who work in high-crime areas to diffuse violence before it occurs. But an analysis of one of these programs in Chicago revealed “violence interrupters” reduced shootings in only three of the seven neighborhoods analyzed, gun homicides in one, and gang homicides in none. In a Pittsburgh version of the same program, violence actually went up in the neighborhoods surveyed.
Alternatively, high police presence in neighborhoods reduces crime—and citizens know this. In a survey conducted following protests and riots last summer, “86 percent of all Americans and 81 percent of black Americans said that they would want the police to spend the same length of time or