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REP. JODY HICE: End Racism – Not The Police

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Washington, D.C., June 14, 2020 | comments

In the days since George Floyd’s tragic and horrifying death, America has been rocked by an unprecedented rush of anger, frustration, anxiety and fear.

Even in the midst of this turmoil, we can look in the mirror and confidently remind ourselves that the United States of America remains the greatest nation in the world. But, like all great societies, we have dark sins swept under the rug. The ultimate evil of those sins is racism and, even as past generations made painfully slow but nonetheless hard-fought progress, it continues to plague our nation.

Racism can only be defeated by wholesale societal change – a groundswell amongst the people. It requires each of us to step up and be our own best selves. Unfortunately, in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death, we watched some citizens show the very worst of themselves as violence and destruction erupted in our cities as righteous demonstrations were hijacked by “antifa” leftists. America is better than this – and recent days are proof. We’re now witnessing a shift back to Americans marching peacefully en masse, exercising their First Amendment rights to protest and demanding change.

As the pendulum swings back to lawful demonstrations and we take a step back from the brink of anarchy, raw emotions are crystalizing into nascent political movements. As ideas move from street protests to the halls of government, we must assess these proposals on the merit of their substance – not the righteousness of the emotion that brought them into the world. 

One proposal has swept to the forefront of the conversation: the call to #AbolishThePolice. Major cities are taking steps to defund or even abolish local law enforcement agencies. In Los Angeles, instead of providing law enforcement with a planned 7 percent budget increase, Mayor Eric Garcetti has reversed course and now proposes slashing the LAPD’s $1.8 billion budget by $150 million.

New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly followed suit. A public letter from hundreds of de Blasio staffers called on the mayor to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s $6 billion annual budget. Neither the letter nor the mayor have addressed how significant funding cuts would impact the nearly 300 NYPD officers injured in the unrest that swept the city.

Bewilderingly, the protest cry “abolish the police” is rapidly becoming part of the Democratic Party’s platform. Spurred onwards by Leftist activists – or bullied into submission – Democrats are scrambling to appease these loud voices. The most humiliating example is in Minneapolis, where the crowd booed a defeated Mayor Jacob Frey as he scurried away after balking when put on the spot. Ironically, the Democratic Party has governed many of these cities for decades and these elected officials are themselves proud liberals who have long sought to identify with the same activists now hounding them.

Rational Americans understand that good people can fight racism and support local police at the same time. We know that most of America’s police are upstanding servants of the community. Incidents of unjust violence by police have decreased dramatically over the years.  Police officers around the country put their lives on the line to protect citizens on a daily basis – most recently showcased by their work on the frontlines against the coronavirus, which has cost over 100 officers their lives. No elected official from either party should accept the false choice of fighting racism or supporting the police.

If you think this is an isolated fringe movement, I urge you to reconsider. This is spreading at a lightning pace. A week ago, anyone calling for defunding or abolishing a local police department would be laughed out of the room. Now, high profile Democrats are embracing the idea. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), considered a possible running mate for Joe Biden, recently appeared to support defunding law enforcement when she applauded Mayor Garcetti’s decision.

This week in Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is unveiling major legislation to enact sweeping reforms to law enforcement. Like most big initiatives by House Democrats, this bill was drafted in secret behind closed doors by a small group of the Speaker’s closest allies. Most Members of Congress – even those interested in police reform – were blocked from participating. The legislation does not yet include #AbolishThePolice language but socialist Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a Biden campaign surrogate who loudly supports disbanding law enforcement, appears ready to make a push for its inclusion.

Public opinion is shifting rapidly. Expect public policy to follow suit. As it does, remember that your support for the police is not a litmus test for whether you oppose racism in America. We must confront racism – but that is not mutually exclusive to also supporting law enforcement. As the debate continues, it is imperative that we do not sow the seeds for future discord while attempting to remedy our old sins.

Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) is a senior member of the House Oversight Committee. 

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