A city in Vermont has experienced an unparalleled rise in murders and shootings since substantially reducing its police department amid a national “Defund the Police” movement.
In June 2020, the city council in Burlington voted to reduce the size of the city’s police department from a maximum of 105 officers to 74 law enforcement personnel. The money previously allocated to the department was directed to “programs that support people of color.”
The move to defund the department led to a subsequent exodus of remaining officers to the point that only 62 officers remain for the town of nearly 45,000, and Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad only considers 54 of those to be “effective.”
At the time of the decision, Murad warned the council that such a reduction would mean “there will be no Domestic Violence Prevention Officer, no School Resource Officers, no Community Affairs Officer, and no Emergency Response Officer.”
“Eliminating these special Community Policing roles negatively impacts important services … [and] negatively impacts efforts at recruitment and retention,” Murad continued.
Since then, the city has suffered more murders than any year since records began being kept in 1960, Chief Murad recently explained. Beyond homicides, non-fatal shootings are up 300% over the five-year average.
Last year, the Burlington city council backpedaled, voting to allocate additional funds to the police department, increasing the maximum number of officers from 74 to 87. However, Murad said that it will take years to rebuild the department.
While Burlington and other municipalities across the county are wrestling with the consequences of reducing police budgets, Texas sought to prevent the issue in the first place.
In 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that would penalize cities and counties if they reduced the police budgets, as reported by The Dallas Express.
One law, applying to municipalities with over 250,000 residents, prevents cities that defund the police from annexing additional land and allows recently annexed areas to vote on separating from the city. Furthermore, those municipalities also lose the ability to increase property tax rates and suffer other economic prohibitions.
Another law stipulated that counties with a population of over 1 million must seek “voter approval for the proposed reduction or reallocation at an election held for that purpose.”
In accordance with the new laws, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hagar initiated an investigation into Harris County that found County Judge Lina Hidalgo sought to pass a budget that “would not be in compliance.”
“Violent crime is spiking because police budgets are being slashed and criminals face no accountability for their actions,” Hagar suggested. “Every day, we read stories about violent offenders walking free without even having to post bail.”
In Dallas, however, Mayor Eric Johnson has been a vocal opponent of defunding the police since calls to do so began in 2019, as reported by The Dallas Express.
In a recent interview concerning his reelection bid, Johnson explained, “You can’t deny the fact that there really was a movement in this country to defund the police, and I took a very firm stance against that when it was not popular.”
“We’ve been proven right,” the mayor continued, “those of us who believed that you don’t cut the police budget … in the middle of a violent crime uptick.”