President Donald Trump began a campaign of “law and order” after witnessing protests in cities where unarmed Black Americans were killed or nearly killed by police officers. The Black Lives Matter movement has advocated for years that changes should be made to police departments to fund people like mental health experts and social workers who can go with officers to calls in which someone is having a mental health crisis. That message then evolved into a message of “defund the police,” specifically involving police departments that simply need to be cleaned out following years of corruption.
While the idea of “defund the police” doesn’t actually mean an actual defunding of public safety, it reimagines the way policing is done in the modern era. Trump has claimed that this is a policy advocated by Democrats who want to see “anarchy” break out. He even ordered the Justice Department to name “anarchist zones” so he can pull away federal funding for Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and New York City.
Withdrawing federal funding means these municipalities will need to make drastic budget cuts, including public safety and police. Ironically, it would help defund the police Trump believes should be fully funded.
In Florida, the impact of the coronavirus has left cities struggling for funds as well. Trump’s lackluster response to the virus and failed leadership to stop the spread means the cash-strapped cities must make tough choices in cutting their budgets as well. That also means public safety and law enforcement.
In May, the Democratic-led Congress passed the HEROES Act, which would deliver “$375 billion in funding to localities, … non-county municipal governments that are not metropolitan cities” as they struggle to fill revenue shortfalls amid the pandemic. The total amount that would be sent to all cities, counties, and states is over $1 trillion in the Democratic bill that passed Congress but was never brought up in the GOP-led Senate.
Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno explained that Florida cities are facing “historic budget shortfalls due to COVID.”
“If they decide to prioritize other spending over certain police functions to balance the budget, will they risk losing critical state aid?” he asked.
Florida cities and counties may face historic budget shortfalls due to COVID. If they decide to prioritize other spending over certain police functions to balance the budget, will they risk losing critical state aid? https://t.co/2pD9h69JAt
— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) September 21, 2020
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland similarly revealed the coronavirus pandemic will “reduce local government revenues by an estimated $11.6 billion in 2020.”
State revenue isn’t far behind, but in April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that states file for bankruptcy. It’s unclear why McConnell doesn’t know it, but states are forbidden from filing for bankruptcy by federal law.
While Trump threatens that Democrats will “defund the police,” it appears he’s already started the ball rolling.