Dems who called for defunding police amid George Floyd protests now pivoting

Police departments nationwide are now seeing their finances partially restored amid a spike in crime

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George Floyd’s death at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the summer of 2020 ignited a wave of protests across the country calling for major overhauls in the U.S. criminal justice system. 

The phrase "defund the police" not only became a rallying cry but served as a litmus test separating moderates from the progressive left. 

Demonstrators hold a sign reading "Defund the police" during a protest over the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, after police put a spit hood over his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, Sept. 6, 2020.

Demonstrators hold a sign reading "Defund the police" during a protest over the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, after police put a spit hood over his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, Sept. 6, 2020. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

The latter wing was adamant that the phrase shouldn’t be regarded as merely rhetorical. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responding to proposed New York City budget cuts to the police department said they didn’t go far enough. 

"Defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools," the congresswoman said in a statement.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., went a step further, calling for the Minneapolis Police Department to be dismantled because it is "rotten to the root." 

"We need to completely dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Because here’s the thing, there’s a cancer," Omar said at rally in Minneapolis in June 2020.

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In many cases, city officials put "defund the police" into practice by voting to cut funding to its respective police departments. 

What followed was a significant nationwide rise in violent crime. According to the FBI, the U.S. experienced a nearly 30% jump in homicides in 2020 compared with the previous year. Below is a roundup of just a few of the Democratic leaders who changed course on the issue. 

SAN FRANCISCO MAYOR LONDON BREED

In July 2020, while nationwide protests were reaching their zenith, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced $120 million in budget cuts to the city’s police department and promised to reinvest those funds in communities. 

But an ongoing wave of crime and violence impacting the city has evidently made her change her mind. Earlier this month Mayor Breed unveiled a series of proposals aimed at curbing the mayhem, including securing emergency funds for law enforcement. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed talks about the first confirmed case of the omicron variant during a COVID-19 briefing outside City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed talks about the first confirmed case of the omicron variant during a COVID-19 briefing outside City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The plan includes more police funding for overtime officers. Breed noted that vacation and time off have been canceled for officers in an effort to address the spike in crime. 

OAKLAND MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF 

Across the San Francisco Bay, Oakland officials have reversed plans to cut the city’s police department following a surge in violence that included roving armed caravans, an uptick in homicides and brazen smash-and-grab burglaries. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has pledged to hire more police officers after suggesting that police officers should be replaced by public employees who can respond to traumatic scenes and other situations she described as unrelated to law enforcement. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks at a news conference in Oakland, California, on July 26, 2021. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaks at a news conference in Oakland, California, on July 26, 2021.  (AP)

Schaaf’s pledge came after a weekend in which three people were killed, including a retired police officer acting as a security guard for a television news crew, bringing the number of homicides to nearly 130 so far this year. 

CHICAGO MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposed last year to cut $80 million from the city’s police budget. But on Monday the Democratic mayor begged the federal government to help combat crime and violence in the Windy City. 

Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a science initiative event at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, July 23, 2020. 

Chicago's Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a science initiative event at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, July 23, 2020.  (REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo)

At a news conference, Lightfoot asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to send in agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for six months to ramp up the number of gun investigations and gun seizures. 

"Keeping you safe is my priority – not one of, but the first and primary priority," Lightfoot said. "I wake every morning with this as my first concern and I push myself and all involved to step up and do more and better because we cannot continue to endure the level of violence that we are now experiencing." 

NEW YORK CITY 

In July 2020 Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City council voted to cut the city’s police department budget by roughly $1 billion amid intense public pressure to defund the police. 

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio makes declarations in the Bronx borough of New York City, Feb. 5, 2021.

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio makes declarations in the Bronx borough of New York City, Feb. 5, 2021. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Those cuts resulted in the 600-officer, plainclothes anti-crime unit being disbanded and the delay of a cadet class of roughly 900 officers. 

Months later, de Blasio backtracked, saying that the city would spend more than $100 million to build a new NYPD precinct in southeast Queens, where residents complained of long response times.  

MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL

Perhaps most significant was the pivot taken earlier this year by Democratic leaders in Minneapolis, the city of Floyd’s death. 

In February, the City Council backtracked on its original push to defund the city’s police department and approved $6.4 million in police funding after residents pleaded for more officers, citing longer response times, and increased violent crime.  

Riots in Minneapolis

Riots in Minneapolis (Getty Images)

Minneapolis voters last month rejected a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. 

The initiative would have taken out language that included minimum funding requirements for the department and would have divided control of public safety between the mayor and city council. 

Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis.   

Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis.    (David Joles /Star Tribune via AP)

Several Minneapolis council members who supported the ballot measure were defeated at the polls after being locked in tight races. 

PORTLAND, OREGON

In June 2020, Portland’s Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler and the city council cut millions from the police budget. But last month, the council unanimously passed a budget bump that included increasing its $230 million police budget by an additional $5.2 million. 

Police fire tear gas at demonstrators during a protest against ICE in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 23, 2021. 

Police fire tear gas at demonstrators during a protest against ICE in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 23, 2021.  (Getty Images)

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A similar situation has played out in cities that saw some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests. Police departments in these cities are now seeing their finances partially restored in response to rising homicides, an officer exodus and political pressures. 

Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report