“Last year, all of this talk about defunding the police was utter nonsense,” McConnell told the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce on Thursday while back in his home state, according to WDRB-TV of Louisville.
“I think communities decide how many police they want to have. And my guess is, in every single community where you have an outburst of violence like this, local governments are going to decide how to respond to that. They don’t need any advice from me. But I think more police, rather than less police, is a really important decision.”
Several large cities like Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore and New York City cut their police department budgets last year as Black Lives Matter protesters demanded fewer officers on the streets.
Department cuts have coincided in many cases with an uptick in crime.
In Portland, Oregon, the city cut $16 million from the police budget last June, including an anti-gun violence unit, but after a spike in shootings since last summer, the city plans to reinstate it.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaks during a news conference in Washington, June 22, 2021. (Getty Images)
“We agree that the immediate spike in gun violence is a public health threat that requires a public health response that invests in community-based organizations working to change the conditions and environments that foster violence,” Mayor Ted Wheeler and all four city commissioners said in a statement in April.
Police Chief Chuck Lovell said it was a “complex issue” and he welcomed any plans that would successfully reduce gun violence in Portland — but he added that staffing issues have hit a crisis point in the city’s police force.
Earlier this month, a Minnesota judge ruled that the city of Minneapolis must hire more police officers because so many have left the department in the last year – a problem other cities have seen as well.
Democrats have been trying to push the George Floyd Policing Bill in recent months, which faces Republican opposition in the Senate.
McConnell said he hopes both sides will work together on the policing issue and has asked Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to lead the Republican effort, according to WDRB.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.