No, Northam Does Not Support Police Defunding

by James A. Bacon

The idea of defunding the police in Virginia comes close to being clinically insane. Only someone suffering from mental psychosis would seriously propound it. Whatever police abuses may occur in Virginia — and they are relatively few — they are trivial to compared what would occur in a state of lawlessness and anarchy. So, the question arises, did Governor Ralph Northam literally call for defunding the police yesterday?

The Republican Party of Virginia blasted out a press release accusing Northam of endorsing the “Defund the Police” movement that “has become a mainstream Democrat litmus test.” The statement then cited the following quote:

When we talk about defunding, I wouldn’t look at it as defunding. I would look at it as how do we best prioritize the funding that we have.

I would not consider the statement a model of cogent expression of thought. But it’s clear, if not from the statement itself then from the context of what else he said, that the Governor does not support defunding in the same sense as, say, Washington state anarchists who have declared a police-free autonomous zone in downtown Seattle. Rather, the Governor supports reallocating law-enforcement dollars in support of the latest trendy Democratic Party talking point.

There are many, many reasons to be critical of Northam, and we have documented them on this blog. There is no need to make stuff up. Indeed, it is crucial not to make stuff up because you lose credibility when you do. Whatever else you may say about him, Northam is not an anarchist. (Given his embrace of emergency powers with no time limit he’s arguably closer to being a monarchist than an anarchist.) No one is going to believe he is an anarchist, and anyone trying to press the case that he is will only sideline himself from the ongoing debate.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, here is what else the governor also said:

Asked specifically about whether he supports calls by protesters to “defund the police,” Northam said: “A lot of semantics has been used, and certainly one of them is dismantling the police. I certainly don’t support that. Our police officers provide a much needed resource to our communities.”

Northam added that when it comes to police funding, “we need to talk about reform and the priorities of how we spend the funding.”

Now, one can legitimately question whether Northam’s ideas for reallocating police forces have merit. He wants to see more diversity on police staffs, he says, and he supports more “co-responding” in which mental health or social services professionals accompany police responding to certain kinds of incidents. Regarding the first idea, I defy anyone to name a single metropolitan jurisdiction in Virginia that doesn’t seek more diversity in its police departments; regarding the second, sending mental health professionals to help deal with mental health sounds like an idea worth exploring.

Northam also proffered a remedy that sound a lot like an endorsement of community policing. “There are opportunities to get into the community more and make sure people in our community know police officers are there to protect them and keep them safe … and make sure they know their communities are respected.” Who can complain about this? Community policing is already commonplace in Virginia.

If Northam warrants criticism, it’s that he really has nothing new to say.

Rather than make stuff up, the Republican Party of Virginia could make a useful contribution by identifying and championing police best practices that maintain order and combat crime without alienating minority populations. Given the rabid distemper of the left-wing radicals who seem to drive Democratic Party thinking these days, we can’t rely upon Democrats to do that. The RPV has an opportunity to position itself as the voice of reason. But it will have to do better than blasting out easily refuted press releases.

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12 responses to “No, Northam Does Not Support Police Defunding”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I think that police should not be required to handle people having a mental episode unless there is a real threat of violence. More mental health specialists is a good idea. Not do I think police should be required to intercede in domestic issues unless there is a real threat of violence or something involving breaking the law. Why is this “clinically insane.” So reactionary!

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I was really dismayed when I read the Republican statements. We have gotten so polarized, even in Virginia, that the Republicans could not bring themselves to praise Northam for not buying into the nutty idea of defunding and for saying that the police are a munch needed resource. I suspect that most Republicans support the ideas of more mental health professionals and community policing as well.

    But, he is the leader of the opposition party and, therefore, he must be blasted. So, they say that the Governor was in support of what he explicitly said he did not support. You are right–credibility lost.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I agree. RPV has become so obsessed with regaining control that they’ve joined others on the right who have no problem at all with lying and misrepresenting facts… Trump has set the bar… if the POTUS can spin off conspiracy theories then surely mere lying is acceptable.

      The RPV apparently has no intention of trying to win back the parts of Virginia they have lost to the Dems… It’s amazing..

      I HAVE voted GOP in the past and I would again for a moderate conservative… someone who if fiscally Conservative, not a racist, and socially moderate – willing to try to deal with social issues in a practical and pragmatic ways. That person no longer exists in the Republican Party in Virginia… They’re all on the Trump train these days – and they’re going to lose – If you cannot run a competitive race in places like NoVa – you’re history.

  3. CrazyJD Avatar

    “No[r] do I think police should be required to intercede in domestic issues unless there is a real threat of violence or something involving breaking the law. Why is this “clinically insane.” So reactionary!>>

    Peter, Have you ever been on a domestic police call? I rather suspect that the victims of domestic violence would strongly disagree with you.

    The “domestic” is the most anxiety producing radio call for a police officer. I’ve been on a few. Never seen one where there was not strong backup. The worst are those where police have never before heard from the combatants: impossible to predict what police are facing. Otherwise, the officers will have some idea what they’re in for (“the Smiths are at it again”). Even in those cases, the responding officers never know when the male (not always, but usually) will finally blow a gasket and answer the door with a gun in his hand. So yes, the police should be required to show up. But if you mean to criticize those jurisdictions who say: “If police show up, one of the combatants is going to vacate the premises”, I might agree with you, but only if the result is one or the other combatant gets hurt because he/she failed to call the police for fear of losing a bread winner under such a policy.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Hey, when you’re right, you’re right. What’s the number? Something like 70% of murders are a domestic violence call where someone didn’t get the chance to dial 911.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      One of the issues is that we do not collect uniform data when cops or civilians are killed , i.e. the circumstances… and other data.

      I’ve gotten the impression that domestic calls claim a fair number of police killed.. I don’t know how many out of the total.

      Without good data, we are at a disadvantage in deciding what policy changes to make or not.

      In the end, under the current regime – cops are somewhat on their own in terms of protecting themselves from harm and different ones adopt different strategies… which may or may not be in the best interest of both police and citizens.

      It’s no secret that most law enforcement agencies seem to prefer people who have armed forces experience. That’s not necessarily a good thing.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Crazy jd. it might help if you read my comment again. I said unless there is violence

  5. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
    Bill O’Keefe

    The whole question of funding takes the discussion away from what is relevant.
    The principles that guide the development of all excellent organizations need to be applied to police forces. Excellence and culture begin at the stop. Clear expectations and getting incentives right can make a difference.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I agree but what explains how Policing has gone so wrong?

      1. Matt Hurt Avatar
        Matt Hurt

        While there are too many really bad outcomes, I bet things are much better today than in the past. Still a lot to improve.

  6. SGillispie Avatar

    You apparently have been on a police call and know what you are talking about. You are attempting to dialogue with an ideologue whose position always argues the current jingos of the leftist mob and seldom has any real knowledge about which he opines.
    On one call in which I was present, the only reason there was not violence was because the police officer showed up. The little kids had fled and the neighbors were terrified.
    The young police officer did an excellent job of defusing the situation. I have other examples which support you as dead on!

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    SGillispie. If you are referring to me you should know that covered police in Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Norfolk for The Virginian-Pilot in the 1970s. I have been on plenty of domestic calls along with stakeouts, murder scenes and so on. A few times I helped short-handed police move bodies.

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