Governor Hogan’s USA Today op-ed: Democrats are finally rejecting ‘defund the police.’ Now let’s invest in our communities.
ANNAPOLIS, MD (STL.News) Every American should applaud the fact that President Joe Biden and many progressive leaders across the country are rightly rejecting the far-left lunacy of defunding our police.
But, as many in the Democratic Party are finally seeing the light, this moment deserves reflection on how a narrow group of far-left politicians, media voices and progressive activists were able to crowd out the voices of Americans from across the political spectrum who want us to get tough on violent criminals and provide more resources – not less – for law enforcement.
In some progressive circles, the radical “defund the police” movement has often been presented as this generation’s civil rights movement. They claim that taking resources away from our police and lessening penalties on violent criminals will somehow advance the cause of justice, even though this theory was completely alien to the day-to-day lives of regular Americans.
‘Re-Fund the Police’
When I was one of the first leaders in America to speak out forcefully against the “defund the police” movement and instead propose a “Re-Fund the Police Initiative” for $500 million of increased support for law enforcement, crime control and victim protection services in Maryland, Democratic leaders across our state denounced it as “divisive rhetoric.”
Even as nearly 90% of Black voters agreed with our proposal, Democrats attacked it as “dog whistling.”
They had it exactly backward.
The best way to advance civil rights and equal opportunity for all is to better equip police officers with the tools they need to secure safer communities and to hold violent criminals accountable for the havoc they wreak on their neighbors.
Every American deserves to be safe from violent criminality, regardless of what neighborhood they happen to grow up in. The fact that basic security is often a luxury that only the wealthy in our country can afford is a grave and shameful injustice. This reality has only grown more urgent as homicides have surged across the country.
Far-left politicians have rejected common sense
Sadly, the self-defeating woke-ism that drove the “defund the police” movement is nothing new. For years, we’ve been laser focused on stopping the violent crime that has long plagued Baltimore City, and our top legislative priority has been to pass tougher sentences for violent offenders. But some far-left politicians have rejected taking commonsense steps to get violent criminals off our streets until we address the systemic “root problems” of crime.
The reality is we have to do both. While we agree with addressing the long-term causes of crime, victims and vulnerable communities simply can’t afford to wait for generational changes to take hold.
In Maryland, we’ve invested record funding into education, but how can we expect our children to succeed when they don’t feel safe?
We’ve passed historic criminal justice reforms that served as a model for the federal First Step Act, but how can we reduce recidivism if we are creating an environment where violent criminality seems like a viable path?
We’ve bolstered opportunity by bolstering opportunity zones and removing blighted properties in our most disadvantaged communities, but how can we attract economic investment and job opportunities if employers can’t offer their workers security?
In Maryland, 82% of homicide suspects have an existing criminal record, and nearly half have been previously arrested for a violent crime. The sad truth is that a small number of violent criminals have been allowed to terrorize our communities without being held accountable. Their victims are real people who are forced to suffer the consequences of poor leadership and out-of-touch policies, not guinea pigs for a college sociology course. One reason why toxic politics are tearing our country apart is because the extremes have been allowed to crowd out the real concerns of everyday Americans. If we want to build a more just and equitable future, then we must start listening to their voices once again and work toward a future where all Americans – regardless of their race, color or creed – don’t have to live in fear in their communities.
Larry Hogan, a Republican, has been governor of Maryland since 2015.