Over the past month, the shootings, kidnappings, and murders plaguing the streets of Memphis were plastered on front pages and tv screens nationwide. These horrific acts of violence made headlines, but the resulting coverage exposed only a small portion of the crime wave devastating American cities and suburbs caused by the Democrats' desperate attempt to appeal to the radicals in their party.
Since the summer of 2020, 'Defund the Police' has transformed from a rallying cry of the far-left fringe to one of the Democratic Party’s most notorious platform planks. Presidential hopefuls, socialist "squad" members, and then Senator Kamala Harris have all joined the campaign to embolden criminals and undermine law enforcement, with disastrous results. Compared to mid-2019, America's largest cities have seen a 50% increase in homicides and a 36% increase in aggravated assaults. Cities that made the ‘Defund the Police’ model official policy saw crime rates rise even higher.
Meanwhile, cities determined to maintain law and order still have not been able to escape the fallout from the national anti-police movement. Prosecutors and judges eager to placate activists demanding compassion for criminals put deadly felons back on the streets with unnerving regularity. In Memphis, Ezekiel Kelly, who live-streamed a deadly shooting spree, was released early after serving 11 months of his three-year sentence for felony aggravated assault. Cleotha Abston, recently charged with murdering a Memphis woman, was let out of a 24-year sentence for kidnapping four years early – despite having a lengthy criminal record including rape and aggravated robbery.
While our brave men and women in law enforcement do their best to catch criminals and put them behind bars, underfunded agencies do not have the necessary resources to support prosecution. Insufficient funding results in sluggish turnaround for critical evidence, meaning slower arrests and fewer convictions. The same day Cleotha Abston’s likely victim’s body was discovered, DNA matching that of Abston was discovered in a rape kit from a separate case –over a year after it was initially collected. If processed sooner, this evidence could have kept him in prison. Instead, it sat in an evidence locker collecting dust while he walked free.
In Tennessee, rising crime has put everyone on high alert, but it has also strengthened the call to action. Last week, I worked with Senator Bill Hagerty to take on the crime wave by introducing the Restoring Law and Order Act. This legislation will help us identify deficiencies in processing evidence such as rape kits and increase resources for state and local law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime. It will take on the challenges law enforcement faces with funding to hire more police officers, detectives, and trained lab personnel. In turn, law enforcement will have access to the manpower and evidence they need to keep rapists, drug dealers, murderers, and other violent criminals behind bars. Senator Hagerty and I also sent a letter to Joe Biden demanding an end to his war on law enforcement.
While national headlines have turned attention toward Memphis, Americans know that ending the Democrats' anti-police crusade requires nationwide action. They want criminals behind bars and police officers on the streets. While the left is slow to acknowledge the horrific acts committed by known criminals, Senator Bill Hagerty and I are working to stop them in their tracks. Instead of having celebrations at the White House, Joe Biden should follow our lead. Tennesseans are demanding action on crime – and refusing to respond will result in deadly consequences for our friends and neighbors.