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Feds’ Phoenix PD probe preamble to ‘defunding the police’

Phoenix Police officers watch protesters rally June 2, 2020, in Phoenix during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Groups and politicians from both sides of the aisle are pushing to limit qualified immunity for police officers, a legal doctrine that makes it nearly impossible to prevail in lawsuits against the police. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Police officers watch protesters rally June 2, 2020, in Phoenix during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. AP Photo/Matt York)

The Biden Administration’s decision this month to open an investigation into the Phoenix Police Department marks a dangerous new phase in activists’ efforts to ‘defund the police’ nationwide — and our elected officials shouldn’t stand for it. 
 
Most people know that defunding the police is absurd. A USA Today / Ipsos poll in March found that only 18% of respondents support efforts to do so. That’s abysmal news for the movement’s proponents, and Democrats know it — so much so that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in June attempted to pin the movement on Republicans. She was laughed out of the room, as she deserved to be. 
 
For now, it may seem like common-sense Americans have prevailed in combating these efforts. But we shouldn’t rest, not for a second. Although some still feel comfortable admitting their ultimate goal — take Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who last week said point-blank that “we need to defund the police” — many ‘defund the police’ activists in government have entered into a dangerous new ‘stealth mode’ strategy. 
 
Rather than defunding the police in full view of the public, these activists are using administrative procedures and litigation to undermine law enforcement so that the institution begins to come apart over time. 
 
The final goal may be to nationalize law enforcement just as they’re trying to do with elections. 
 

Matt Salmon

Matt Salmon

At the municipal level in Phoenix, their ‘stealth mode’ strategy is personified by the Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT). This brainchild of ‘defund the police’ proponents was established amid the chaos of the pandemic, despite serious concerns from local leaders that the OAT would intentionally erode officers’ public support by promoting unfounded complaints in order to create a “divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform.” 
 
Now the Biden Administration is getting in on the game. 
 
On August 5, citing unspecified “media reports,” the Justice Department led by Attorney General Merrick Garland – who has been praised by Democrats and even some Republicans seeking public office – announced that it would be opening an investigation into Phoenix Police. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said at a press conference that the administration would identify “the best remedies” for local police to comply with and then threatened to “bring litigation” against them if they do not agree. 
 
That doesn’t sound like an investigation. It sounds like a railroading. And, considering that Clarke wrote an op-ed just last year titled, in part, “Defund the Police,” I have a pretty good feeling what her “remedies” are going to be. 
 
This unnecessary federal probe into our local affairs, much like the OAT, is simply the far Left’s latest step to defund American police departments. They want to wear down local law enforcement with litigation, overwhelm them with politically charged investigations, and drive officers out of the profession until force levels become unsustainably low. 
 
I’ve been meeting with police chiefs and county sheriffs across Arizona, and they all tell me the same thing: They can’t recruit enough officers because potential applicants don’t believe that the public will have their backs. With Phoenix Police now facing a shortage of hundreds of officers and dispatchers, I worry that the far Left’s strategy is working. 
 
State and city officials need to take a stand and tell the Justice Department to back off. 
 
We cannot afford to let the Biden Administration turn Phoenix, now the country’s fifth-largest city, into San Francisco, where defecating on the sidewalk is commonplace and where groups of criminals routinely rob retail stores in plain sight because the police are defunded, and prosecutors are too weak on crime to enforce the law. We cannot allow Arizona to turn into California and standing up for the men and women in blue is a critical step to stop the fringe Left from ruining our state. 
 
Matt Salmon, a former congressman, is a Republican candidate for governor of Arizona. 
 

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