Thursday, July 29, 2021

Homicide is changing the dynamics of politics

Homicides and shootings are up and the number of cops is down in cities from Atlanta to Seattle. Crime, as a result, is dominating the discourse in mayoral races — driving candidates to talk about beefing up police patrols and bolstering depleted departments’ ranks, reported Politico.

“When I talk to people, they’re scared,” said Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, who’s running against Reed for mayor. “We have seen and experienced on a daily basis crime that we just haven’t seen before. People know that something has to happen — and they know the first responders to a crime situation are police officers.”

It’s a far cry from the calls to “defund the police” that took center stage in these cities just last summer. But the sobering reality of rising gun violence and flagrant theft is changing the conversation, pushing candidates to get tougher on crime in Democratic-leaning cities.

Eric Adams seemingly mastered this new, delicate balance in New York City, where the long-ascendant progressive call to cut police funding and end the “carceral state” landed with a dull thud this spring amid a surge of shootings and hate crimes.

Poll after poll showed crime as the top concern on the minds of Democratic voters, and that was the message Adams — who retired as a captain in the NYPD before entering politics — hammered home almost exclusively from the start of his campaign. Adams balanced that by promising reforms to abusive policing, surging late in the game to clinch the Democratic nomination over another pro-police candidate and progressive rivals who favored shifting funds away from the cops.

Yet Adams’ victory is less a model to be replicated than an example of a shift that’s been taking place on the ground for months as candidates already being pushed to tackle police reform are simultaneously being forced to confront crime head-on.

There’s been a wholesale shift on policing in Seattle, where just last summer cries to defund the police were so forceful that the majority of the City Council supported a plan to slash the police department’s budget by 50 percent. One year later, with homicides and gun violence on the rise and a “staffing crisis” spurred by a record number of officer departures, almost none of the major candidates running to replace outgoing Mayor Jenny Durkan is outright backing defunding.

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