U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed surging crime rates in communities across the country that have slashed their police budgets in response to the far-left’s “defund the police” movement. Thune emphasized the essential role that law enforcement officers play in keeping our communities safe and the gratitude we owe the men and women who spend every day working to protect us, our children, and the cities and towns that we call home.
Thune’s speech (as prepared for delivery) below:
“Mr. President, that didn’t take long.
“Just a year since ‘Defund the police’ became a rallying cry and cities started cutting money from police budgets, crime is surging.
“At the beginning of June, the New York Times reported, and I quote, ‘homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year.’
“Homicides are up in New York City.
“The list goes on.
“And it isn’t only homicide rates that have risen.
“During the first four months of the year, Los Angeles saw a 73 percent increase in shootings.
“As of the end of May, Portland, Oregon, which has been ravaged by violent riots over the past year, was on track to exceed 1,000 shootings for this year – as compared to 389 in 2019.
“A Washington Examiner piece from June reported, and I quote, ‘Through the first 14 weeks of this year, New York City saw an 81% increase in shootings, the highest number of shootings during the same time period since 2002. Robberies, grand larcenies, felony assaults, and shootings have all increased in April and May compared to last year.’
“San Francisco has seen a surge in car break-ins, among other crimes, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting in June that, quote, ‘last month, the Police Department’s Central Station saw a 753 percent increase in auto burglaries compared to the previous May.’
“In Oakland, California, carjackings are up almost 88 percent.
“Shootings are up 70 percent.
“And homicides are up 90 percent.
“Unfortunately, I could go on all day.
“The crime surge is real, and it is frightening.
“I’ve quoted a lot of statistics and percentages, but there are real people behind every one of those crimes.
“People whose lives have been cut short or ravaged by violence.
“People whose sense of safety has been destroyed.
“It turns out, Mr. President, that – surprise! – defunding the police is a terrible idea.
“It is no coincidence at all that cities that have slashed their police budgets have seen huge increases in violence.
“Some of them are even recognizing the mistake they’ve made and seeking to restore the funding they cut.
“A Fox Business piece reports, and I quote, ‘Cities like New York City, Oakland, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Los Angeles are planning to reinstate tens of millions for the construction of new police precincts, increase police department budgets, among other plans to bankroll more efforts to confront the uptick in crime.’
“Unfortunately, Mr. President, the problem won’t necessarily be fixed that easily.
“Because “defund the police” rhetoric has not just resulted in smaller police budgets.
“It has also resulted in police demoralization and left departments worried about deploying officers to do their jobs.
“And it has resulted in a wave of police retirements and resignations.
“As the New York Times reports, quote, “Thousands of police officers nationwide have headed for the exits in the past year. A survey of almost 200 police departments indicated that retirements were up 45 percent and resignations rose by 18 percent in the year from April 2020 to April 2021 when compared with the previous 12 months.”
“The city of Asheville, North Carolina, has lost a third of its police force.
“And, Mr. President, it’s not surprising.
“It turns out that when you spend months vilifying police officers and demonizing them for doing their jobs, some of them no longer want to stay.
“And this is perhaps the worst consequence of the defund the police movement.
“Cutting police budgets is not a good idea.
“But resources and equipment can be built back up again, sometimes fairly quickly.
“It’s a lot harder to replace good, seasoned officers with years of experience protecting public safety.
“And while it would be hard to replace them at any time, it’s particularly hard today, because it’s difficult to imagine why anyone would want to become a police officer right now.
“Why would good men and women sign up for a job where they are regularly characterized as the worst kind of criminals?
“Why would they sign up knowing that they may be prevented from – or punished for – doing the job we ask them to do?
“Mr. President, violence against police officers – always a danger – is up.
“And the sickening scene of protesters shouting ‘death to police’ outside a hospital where two ambushed law enforcement officers were fighting for their lives has to be emblazoned on the minds of police officers nationwide.
“Again I ask, why would anyone want to join the police under these conditions?
“The defund the police movement is not only costing us many good officers today, it’s depleting the pool of good officers for the future.
“And that, Mr. President, that is a travesty.
“Mr. President, the unfortunate truth is that Democrats bear a substantial amount of responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in.
“Because this is a party that either actively contributed to the defund the police rhetoric or implicitly endorsed it by largely staying silent.
“Not to mention the less-than-censorious attitude Democrats frequently displayed when it came to the violence and property destruction of last summer and the past year.
“California Representative Maxine Waters said protesters in Minneapolis this April should “get more confrontational” should the verdict in the Chauvin trial not go their way.
“And far-left members of the House of Representatives have spent the past year making statements like “Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist. … No more policing, incarceration, and militarization.”
“Now, more mainstream Democrats have become wise to the fact that their party’s association with the defund the police movement may threaten their electoral chances next year.
“As polling has demonstrated, Americans are squarely against the idea of defunding the police.
“And so the president and other Democrat leaders have all of a sudden announced their concern about surging crime.
“But they’re still trying to have their cake and eat it too.
“Because missing from their messaging is any real condemnation of defund the police rhetoric and the terrible toll it has taken on our cities and police departments.
“In fact, President Biden, who is currently trying to reinvent himself as tough on crime, filled key roles in his Department of Justice with individuals who have gone on record with their support for defunding the police.
“President Biden’s secretary of labor actually cut police funding while serving as Boston’s mayor.
“And his secretary of housing and urban development has suggested that we should consider decreasing police budgets.
“And Democrats’ actual crime-fighting plans are long on punishing gun dealers and gun manufacturers and short on actually going after criminals.
“The president’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seems more interested in targeting law-abiding gun owners than in dealing with the surge in gun crime.
“Mr. President, I have one last point to make about the defund the police movement, and that is its fundamental injustice.
“Are there bad police officers out there.
“Of course there are.
“There are bad teachers out there too.
“And bad social workers.
“And bad small businessmen.
“But just as it would be outrageous to demonize all teachers because of the few bad apples in their profession, it is outrageous to demonize the hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women defending public safety in this country because of a handful of bad officers
“The truth is, we owe our men and women in law enforcement a great debt – a debt we can’t even fully comprehend.
“These men and women go out and risk their lives every day of the week, every month of the year, to keep us safe.
“But they don’t just risk their lives.
“They also bear a heavy physical and emotional burden.
“Most of us go about our daily lives without having to confront much evil – because our law enforcement officers go out every day to confront it for us.
“They confront violence so that we don’t have to.
“And they pay a price.
“It’s tough to have to see evil on a daily basis – to spend years rescuing children who are in trouble or supporting victims of violence or bringing rapists to justice.
“But it’s a price most of them are glad to pay.
“They signed up to protect the innocent, to keep the public safe and evil at bay.
“And they’re proud to do it.
“And we owe them and their families our profound gratitude.
“It is abhorrent that anti-police rhetoric has become such an accepted part of our national conversation – and has been winked at or endorsed by so many Democrat leaders.
“We owe our police officers much better.
“I hope the belated realization among some that police officers are essential to keeping our communities safe will spell the end of the defund the police movement.
“It’s time to focus on protecting public safety – and honoring the men and women who spend every day working to promote it.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”