The Counter-intuitive Liberal Case to Fund the Police

Matthew Yglesias has a piece in Vox titled, “The Case for Hiring More Police Officers.” In it, he sets forth a liberal rationale, not for defunding the police, but for doing the opposite. It is thoughtful and logically written. Yglesias also makes the point that hiring more police would do more than reduce crime; it would also be politically savvy for liberal politicians. His colleague German Lopez has written about President Trump’s efforts to defund the police. Both are worth a read.

The Idea Is Popular

Yglesias wrote his piece in February of 2019, after Black Lives Matter became a movement, but before the death of George Floyd. He cited several studies showing the idea was popular at that time, both with Americans in general and with the black community. But would it still be popular now? A June 9-10 2020 YouGov poll still shows that only a tiny fraction of Americans want to cut police funding. When asked, “do you favor or oppose cutting funding for police departments?” The responses were favor 25%, oppose 53%. In other words, cuts are opposed by a majority of Americans. Only 24% of Americans agreed with the statement “[p]olice reform hasn’t worked. We need to defund police and reinvent our approach to public safety.” Only 33% of blacks agreed with that statement. The poll is a treasure trove of data on criminal justice: you should read it if you have time.

The Cato Institute has also done recent polling on this issue. You can read the details in their article, “Americans Don’t Want to #Defund the Police, Instead They Agree on Reform. The title says it all. They go on: “[i]t’s also useful to keep in mind that few Americans of any racial group support some of the more radical changes demanded by some activists. For instance, few people support calls to abolish or defund the police: 9 in 10 black, white and Hispanic Americans oppose reducing the number of police officers in their community—and a third say their community needs more officers…”

Camden, New Jersey Is Actually an Example of Funding the Police

Much has been written about Camden, New Jersey, a town that “defunded” it’s police department. “Defund” never means defund in these conversations. What Camden actually did was increase the number of police on the streets. They replaced the city police force with a county force. “The new county force is double the size of the old one.”

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Want to Fund the Police

Joe Biden seems to agree. In an opinion piece in USA Today, he wrote, “I’m proposing an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing in our country. Every single police department should have the money it needs to institute real reforms like adopting a national use of force standard, buying body cameras and recruiting more diverse police officers.” More police officers is not defunding the police, obviously.

Bernie Sanders agrees. ““I think we want to redefine what police departments do, give them the support they need to make their jobs better defined,” said Sanders.  On June 2, he told Sen. Chuck Schumer that “we need to enhance the recruitment pool by ensuring that the resources are available to pay wages that will attract the top tier officers we need…”


We should remember that there is also a moral case for funded, effective police. Here’s a story from Reddit that illustrates this well.

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