Funding Defunding the Police

(Paul Valade /Daily Herald via AP)

When George Floyd died under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May of 2020, the protests and riots in cities across the nation had a common theme: stop police brutality, particularly in African-American communities. One of the most prominent calls was to outright defund police, despite the fact that polls last year indicated the majority of Black Americans were not particularly interested in a mitigated police presence.

That didn’t seem to matter to the leftist groups that had a new cause they could use to further a political agenda. Now residents of Cleveland, Ohio will face a choice come November: do they vote yes on a new city charter amendment named Issue 24 that will give citizens the lead on “everything from disciplinary oversight to recruiting and training” with regard to police? Or do they recognize that, despite the bad apples, police must be allowed to do their jobs without the oversight of untrained community activists, organized with funding that originates, not in the Cleveland community itself, but far to east in Washington, DC?

“No one wants to be a Cleveland police officer anymore,” said Paul Forsgren, who formed Greater Cleveland Citizens for Public Safety to oppose Issue 24, to Cleveland.com news. “The good ones we have left will quit if Issue 24 passes.”

In a four-minute clip with Cleveland’s Outlaws Radio Show, Forsgren suggested the amendment is actually very bad for community safety.

“[Currently] the Director of Public Safety is basically…in charge of all things related to public safety…and [he/she] has final authority and responsibility on discipline,” Forsgren said. “The Chief of Police in the current charter is charged with running the police department and in imposing a certain level of discipline. The changes that are proposed… effectively put the Civilian Police Review Board and the Community Police Commission, no longer as recommending bodies, but actually gives them complete oversight over the division of police to where they can actually override the Safety Director and the Chief of Police…in any way, shape, or form they believe [is appropriate]…Additionally, the board can initiate its own complaints, which I find very confusing because the board that can impose discipline on police officers, can initiate its own complaints, and then impose its own discipline.”

This new public oversight board would be funded from the existing budget for police to the tune of $2.5 million, which has led to concerns from some community members that the initiative is simply a backdoor way to defund the police. Word is that the current Chief of Police, Calvin Williams, is not supportive of Issue 24.

Perhaps most egregious, and Forsgren covers this in the interview as well, is that a chunk of change — just over $63,000 — behind the effort to get Issue 24 circulated came from a Washington, DC-based group called The Fairness Project, which Influence Watch links to labor Union SEIU.

The Fairness Project (TFP) is a labor union-backed advocacy organization that finances and supports state ballot initiative campaigns in order to promote left-of-center policies such as government-mandated comprehensive paid family and medical leave, Medicaid expansion, and minimum wage increases. [1]

SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (Local 2005) established the Fairness Project in 2015 with a $5 million grant. [2] TFP finances and supports state ballot initiatives through strategic advice and campaign tactics, and uses a significant amount of its resources to collect required signatures. [3]

The Fairness Project is also funded by a number of undisclosed donors, leading the group to have significant out-of-state influence on local elections. As a result, states like Arizona are responding with measures to regulate various activities related to ballot initiatives.

Cleveland residents — and all Americans — should be asking themselves if they want to vote for things DC political activists not even affiliated with their city want them to vote for simply because those same out-of-state activists could afford to get the issue on the ballot.

Check out the rest of the Outlaws Radio Show’s interview with Forsgren below.