Support for law enforcement must resonate this election cycle

The two-year fallout from the death of George Floyd has been damaging to Minnesota law enforcement, and in turn the communities they serve.  

Activists seized the opportunity to attack the institution of law enforcement both physically and politically. The “defund and dismantle the police” movement took root. Many politicians seized the opportunity to pander to this movement and many were all too quick to paint the entire profession as flawed and in need of reform. The anti-police rhetoric served to embolden the criminal element, while undermining and demoralizing those who serve and protect. That combination has been disastrous for Minnesota.  

The good news is that support for law enforcement is on the rise and being felt by agencies and officers alike. Strong proposals of support are being debated in the legislature to address statewide police recruitment and retention issues that began in 2020. Counties and municipalities are pursuing aggressive retention and recruiting measures and offering competitive compensation to new applicants. Political leaders on the right and left have begun to acknowledge the critical role law enforcement plays in maintaining a safe and healthy state. People of color have become more vocal in their support of increased enforcement and funding — a long-held position that contrasts smartly from the conventional narrative. Officers acknowledge that while the past two years have been a struggle, the outpouring of support from the “silent majority” has been evident and is getting stronger.  

While vocal support and funding for law enforcement has returned, the problems created through the defund/dismantle movement are significant. A 2021 poll conducted by Center of the American Experiment indicated the public ranked “a lack of support for law enforcement” as the number one reason for the rise in crime. While it will take a sustained systemwide effort to address the crime problem (prosecutors must prosecute, judges must hold and sentence, and corrections must incarcerate, not supervise) it all begins with law enforcement. Most importantly, law enforcement needs strong support to proactively address crime. When support for proactive law enforcement is strong, criminals retreat. When support wanes and officers are relegated to being “responders,” criminals emerge.  

Law enforcement professionals understand they must maintain public trust. Doing so means being serious about continuous improvement and meaningful reforms. In turn, the law enforcement community deserves to know that support for their work is serious, too. By all accounts, public support is strong and authentic. Questions remain whether the same authenticity exists politically.  

In this election year, crime will be front and center in most campaigns. We must impress upon candidates that support for law enforcement and the critical role it plays in combating crime cannot be just campaign rhetoric — it must be a meaningful, unwavering commitment. Our collective safety depends on it.