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“Police reform” is part of a larger agenda

OPINION

BY LEN CABRERA

When national Marxist organizations start chanting policy proposals, the Gainesville City Commission jumps to action with the façade of representative government. Their July 13 meeting to discuss police reforms echoed all the proper national talking points for the “defund the police” movement, with well-rehearsed activists lined up under the guise of public comment, while the actual tax-paying public was at work and couldn’t spend four hours on hold to push back against the lunacy.

The one good thing about the meeting was that the city commission admitted that they’re failing at one of the basic roles of local government: public safety. In the other two roles (infrastructure and education), the failures are painfully obvious, so no admission was needed.

On the infrastructure side, anyone who never leaves Alachua County probably thinks there’s a global shortage of paving equipment and materials. The county and city roads are crumbling, but they seem to be fine in every other county. Maybe we just need a higher gas tax; higher taxes seem to be the proposed solution to everything. Unfortunately, we’re already at the state maximum, so it’s more about not spending the money properly, which is why commissioners distract and blame things on UF’s property being off the tax rolls.

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On the education front, Alachua County Public Schools spends $9,300 per student to get less than 35% of the students (grades 3-10) proficient in English Language Arts and less than 32% (grades 3-12) proficient in math. (Data from the Florida Department of Education PK-20 Education Information Portal for 2018-19 school year, using Florida Standards Assessment and End-of-Course Assessments.)

What exactly needs to be reformed or defunded about GPD? Surely not the private security the city commission gets at City Hall. Is it the on-call personal protection Mayor Poe requests whenever he thinks he’s pushed his agenda too far? Is it all those racist cops hired by Chief Jones? They’re so conniving that they agree to work for a black chief of police just so they can do “systemic racism” with top cover. (GPD has 265 sworn officers; nearly a third are non-white.)

“Reform” is just an excuse for the city commission to raid GPD’s budget. They can’t leach enough from GRU or take enough with tax increases to fund their pet projects, so now GPD is in the crosshairs, and it started in June with school resource officers and the joint aviation unit. (The city employee pension fund will likely be next, but that’s another column.)

GPD has just under 20 sworn officers per 10K population. That’s above average for a mid-sized city (100K-200K), but less than other major cities in Florida: Jacksonville (21.3), Miami (24.9), Orlando (29.9), St. Petersburg (22.1), Tampa (27.4).

The commissioners also want to send unarmed responders to 911 calls because of alleged rampant brutality and discrimination… those are national talking points, not allegations against GPD. Although officers are human, so there are always things to criticize, GPD seems to have dealt effectively with officers who don’t follow their policies.

By every measurable statistic, there is no evidence of police officers targeting anyone for executions (FBI data referenced in this column; multiple studies in this column). The same cannot be said in reverse: two officers were ambushed in McAllen, TX, two officers were shot while eating lunch in Trenton, FL, and an officer was executed while sitting in his car in Fayetteville, AK. (Those are just results from the first page of a web search for “police executed” with 53 million results). There were 147 line of duty deaths in 2019. We’re already up to 121 in 2020.

One person during public comment recited jail statistics as evidence of racism and the need for reform. She must be assuming that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate.

By that logic, however, the police are more sexist than racist. According to the Alachua County Jail bookings for the last 30 days (June 21 to July 20), 56% were black and 44% were white. However, the greater disparity was in gender: 80% male versus only 20% female. Clearly, there’s some discrimination going on.

It could be that police arrest people who commit crimes, regardless of skin color, and it just so happens that people who are lower income and less educated are more likely to commit crimes. As everyone loves to point out, there are large disparities by race in those categories in Alachua County. (Or maybe they just have bad public defenders… another thing government does not do well.)

If the city commissioners want the police to not enforce the laws, the commissioners should change the laws (or lobby the county or state to change them). There is no argument that the Florida criminal code is too complex for most people to know or comprehend. If the police are too aggressive, we have to determine if that’s driven by leadership (chasing certain objectives) or actual bad cops. The only local incidents mentioned at the meeting were the shooting of Robert Dentmond (ruled a justified homicide by a grand jury) and an egg throwing incident from 2008 (both officers eventually left the department).

The real purpose of the “defund the police” movement is to demoralize and vilify the police to undermine civil society (while also pushing for the release of prisoners and granting them voting rights). It’s succeeding, too. CNN reported lots of recent resignations of police officers in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Buffalo, and South Florida.

Across the country, officers who can retire or transfer are leaving cities that turn a blind eye to violent protests. Sadly, Gainesville police officers have a municipal pension rather than the cushy Florida Retirement System the city commissioners enjoy. GPD officers cannot leave without taking a substantial financial penalty.

That gives the city commission extra room to use GPD as a punching bag and gain street credibility with BLM. They’re also putting police on notice to comply with the political winds or have their lives ruined. Maybe they’re still mad that GPD didn’t arrest enough kids at the Possum Creek skate park.

Concerned citizens who want to stand up for Chief Jones and the GPD should write to the city commissioners at citycomm@cityofgainesville.org. Don’t let national organizations take over our local law enforcement.

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