By the time I heard a local activist leader shout that he had brought a group of protesters outside my house to make my children, wife, and neighbors “uncomfortable,” I had mostly given up on the idea that meaningful systemic changes would come out of the movement sparked by the brutal murder of George Floyd.
I am an African American man who grew up in rough neighborhoods in Dallas during the most violent period of our nation’s history. Before I became mayor, I had successfully pushed for police accountability measures and expanded educational opportunities during my nine years in the Texas legislature. I was raising two black boys in America (and have added a daughter since then). I was horrified by the death of George Floyd. And Eric Garner. And Philando Castile. And Tamir Rice. And Michael Brown. And on and on.
But like many of my fellow mayors across the country, I had become the enemy because I didn’t believe in slashing the budget of our police department — which had already shrunk by hundreds of officers during the previous five years — amid staggering increases in violent crime in Dallas.
The movement, which began with bipartisan support and captured hearts and minds across the country in a way I had never before seen, was hijacked by elitist and extremist talk of “defunding” or “dismantling.” The loudest voices eschewed common ground and common sense, opting for sloganeering and an air of insatiability that repelled rather than persuaded. Many positive changes, including better use-of-force policies, came out of the movement, but many other opportunities have been squandered.
It didn’t have to be that way. And it still doesn’t.
Cities and states can implement programs now that provide for equity, improve policing, and make us less reliant on law enforcement to solve every social ill. And the federal government could support these ideas through a 21st-century crime bill. Whereas the 1994 Crime Bill centered on punishment, a new plan could focus on prevention and policing.
Now is the time to take action in a comprehensive way. Violent crime is up across
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