The Department of Justice is calling out elected officials in Portland, New York City, and Seattle for allowing violence to go unchecked during protests that all too often devolve into riots and looting. In a press release issued Monday morning, Attorney General Bill Barr blasted politicians like Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, alleging that their actions (or lack thereof) are making their cities more dangerous places.
“When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”
The release goes into great detail about just how bad things have become in the three cities. Shootings are up by more than 150% in New York and by more than 140% in Portland this summer compared to last year, and even as violent crime has shot up, the response by elected officials in the cities called out by the DOJ has been to cut police budgets in cities like New York.
- While the city faced increased unrest, gun violence, and property damage, the New York City Council cut $1 billion from NYPD’s FY21 budget.
- The budget resulted in the cancellation of the new police recruiting class, cuts to overtime spending, and the transfer of certain police functions, including school safety, out of the NYPD.
- Meanwhile, the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys have declined to prosecute charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly arising from the protests, and the District Attorneys in Queens and the Bronx have declined to prosecute other protest-related charges.
- Both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have forcefully rejected federal law enforcement support.
The DOJ release notes that Portland has cut its police budget by $15-million, eliminating 84 positions and scrapping the city’s Gun Violence Reduction Team. As of two weeks ago there’ve been 488 shootings in Portland this year, far above the 299 reported in 2019.
In Seattle, the city council and Mayor Jenny Durkan have been at odds over police funding. The council recently voted to reduce the police budget for the rest of this year by 14%, but Durkan vetoed the bill, which would have resulted in the layoffs of about 100 officers. So far the council has criticized Durkan’s veto but hasn’t acted to override it, despite voting 7-1 in favor of the defunding efforts.
The DOJ’s designation of the three cities as places where anarchy, violence, and destruction is allowed to happen is part of President Trump’s push to pull federal funds from jurisdictions that are turning a blind eye to the increased violence and unrest. The next step is for the director of the Office of Management and Budget to “issue guidance to the heads of agencies on restricting eligibility of or otherwise disfavoring, to the maximum extent permitted by law, anarchist jurisdictions in the receipt of Federal grants that the agency has sufficient lawful discretion to restrict or otherwise disfavor anarchist jurisdictions from receiving.”
In other words, the clock is ticking for Portland, Seattle, and New York City, though if Joe Biden wins in November the threat to pull federal funding will disappear. Heck, he’s more likely to throw a ticker tape parade for mayors like Bill de Blasio than he is to threaten them with a loss of federal dollars if they don’t get tough on rioters and looters. In the meantime, it’s still destroying businesses as usual in places like Portland, where windows were smashed and storefronts vandalized on Saturday night without a single arrest being made by local police.