President Trump recently issued a memorandum addressed to the attorney general and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, ordering them to review the federal tax dollars being sent to jurisdictions that have permitted flagrant lawlessness and rioting to prevail in their streets for weeks—some, for months now—or which have taken steps to limit and/or defund their police forces.
Some pundits are prognosticating that the president’s order cannot be implemented. That remains to be seen.
It has been interesting, if deeply disturbing, to watch the “defund the police” movement play out in some of the country’s most progressive jurisdictions, even as they burn for lack of adequate enforcement and prosecutorial responses to rioting and looting. These are jurisdictions which, by and large, also proudly declared themselves sanctuaries for illegal aliens. When decoded, this simply means that they were, and are, willing to let aliens who commit serious crimes walk away from their booking stations and jails rather than turn them over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
ICE stepped up its activities in response, often taking custody of these aliens right in the hallways of state and county courthouses, which in turn led to many of the officials in these cities and counties (and, appallingly, sometimes even their congressional representatives) to advocate the defunding or dismantling of ICE.
What did the police and sheriffs’ departments do when faced with standing by their federal law enforcement colleagues? All too often, they abandoned them and parrotted the “make our communities feel safe for migrants” nonsense even though many of the victims of the alien criminals they released were themselves members of those migrant communities.
How many veteran police leaders really believed this mantra? And how many were simply currying favor with their political bosses, presumably to ensure that their organization continued in the good graces of the hands that feed them?
But no matter because now it’s coming back to bite those “woke” state and local enforcement organizations where it hurts. You can never be woke enough, and when you unleash the demons of chaos, they cannot be harnessed to go in any particular direction. They’re just as likely to come after you.
Another similarity to the immigration sanctuary issue is now manifest. Toward the beginning of his term, President Trump ordered withholding of federal monies for sanctuary jurisdictions. Admittedly the record of success is mixed.
Jurisdictions that proudly declared they would resist federal immigration enforcement nonetheless kept their hands out for as much grant money as they could garner, and sued to have the president’s orders enjoined. In many instances the jury is still out because of stays and injunctions issued by judges at the district court level—and litigation moves slowly through the federal court system—but in some significant instances, the federal courts have upheld the withholding of funds for certain grants.
So whether or not the president’s recent “defund the defunders” order can be implemented will depend in large measure on exactly how carefully targeted the attorney general and OMB director are in their calculations. The devil assuredly will be in the details: what is the grant’s purpose, and to what specific conditions did state and local governments agree to adhere when accepting the money?
Certainly it makes sense that federal funding should not be used to fill the gaps and shortfalls created when governments divert police monies toward pet projects that don’t seem likely in the long run to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their communities. For the federal government to allow this to happen would only encourage more states and localities to default on their fiscal responsibilities toward their own enforcement agencies and expect the federal government to make good on the deficits—even as they demand that federal agents not be allowed within city limits for such purposes as safeguarding federal courthouses and bringing an end to chaos, arson, looting, and violence.
Here’s the $ 1 million question: Will those “defund/dismantle the police” jurisdictions file suits to demand that the federal dollars continue flowing unabated? If they are true to their beliefs, then they should welcome the withdrawal of federal monies so as to hasten the end of those bastions of hobnail-booted thugs with badges whose job is to risk their lives daily on behalf of the citizenry.
Chances are, though, they’ll engage in the usual lawfare, spending significant amounts of state and local monies (that instead could have gone to police and sheriff departments) in order to fight Trump’s effort to hold them accountable, sublimely oblivious to the fact this shows them to be brazen hypocrites.