His comments referenced the growing left-wing movement in cities such as Minneapolis -- where George Floyd died last month in police custody -- New York City and beyond.
“We’re already seeing outlandish calls, 'defund the police,’ 'abolish the police,’ take root within the left-wing leadership class,” McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor Monday.
“The president of the city council in Minneapolis proclaimed she can imagine a future without the police,” McConnell continued Monday. “I’m all for social work and mental health. Call me old fashioned, but I think you may actually want a police officer to stop a criminal and arrest him before we try to work through his feelings.”
McConnell criticized some left-wing leaders, saying they “fall for this nonsense.”
“I have a feeling the American people are too smart for that,” he said, noting that they know that “riots and looting are unacceptable,” and that “law enforcement officers are an important part of creating safe communities, not something to defund or abolish.”
Defunding the police could appear differently in various localities. In Minneapolis, the supermajority of the City Council seemingly supported a complete structural dismantling of the department. In other places, departments would remain in place but get fewer government resources, with some of their funding directed toward social justice programs.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti planned to make cuts up to $150 million to the city’s police department and redistribute the money to “black communities and communities of color.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that he will be diverting funding for the New York Police Department toward social services.
“The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead. But, I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people,” de Blasio said.
Meanwhile, many top Democrats seemingly were reluctant to speak out on the sudden momentum behind the movement.
House and Senate Democrats on Monday held a news conference to unveil sweeping new legislation that, if passed, would increase accountability of police officers by banning certain practices and curbing immunity from legal consequences stemming from acts committed in the line of duty.
During the news conference, though, the “defund the police” calls were not explicitly discussed as lawmakers guided the discussion more toward reform efforts.
Later, a CNN reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., if they supported the movement to defund the police entirely.
“That’s a local decision,” Pelosi said, noting that they would have “those debates at the local level.”
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to pile more money on to further militarize police,” she reportedly added, without directly addressing whether she supports the radical step some local activists are demanding.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was in a similar position on ABC’s “The View,” where she avoided directly answering whether she backed the movement.
“We need to reimagine how we are achieving public safety in America,” she said, noting that cities that directed “one-third of the budget to police” instead of “public schools, job training and job creation—come on. We have to be honest with this.”
When asked where House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., stood on the issue, his office told Fox News he “supports restructuring police departments to ensure resources are deployed to protect and serve all Americans equitably.”
Some Democrats, though, have started to speak out against these demands.
Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, initially was mum on the issue, but on Monday afternoon, his campaign released a statement saying Biden “does not believe that police should be defunded.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Karen Bass, the leader of the influential Congressional Black Caucus, also came out against slashing police budgets.