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Fact Check: Are NC Democrats Aligned With A Defund The Police Group?

House Speaker Tim Moore criticized some legislative Democrats for their ties to a group called Future Now.

Republicans are making "law and order" a key part of their fall campaigns. And that includes North Carolina’s state legislative races, where GOP House Speaker Tim Moore this week accused more than 40 Democratic candidates of supporting an agenda that would defund the police.

WFAE’s political reporter, Steve Harrison, talks with Morning Edition co-host Lisa Worf about whether Moore’s allegation is correct.

Lisa Worf: Let’s start with the House Speaker’s comments. What did he say?

Steve Harrison: Moore called a news conference earlier this week to highlight a pledge that numerous state legislative candidates have signed. It’s from a Washington D.C.-based group called Future Now, that works to flip legislative chambers from red to blue.

Here’s what he said:

Moore: You know, our nation is in a time of crisis right now. Many of us have seen firsthand the destruction that’s happened, the violence that’s happened, crime rates going up in cases. The last thing we need to be talking about is reallocating assets from law enforcement and defunding the police.

Worf: So defunding the police -- help me unpack what he’s getting at.

Harrison: So starting two years ago, Future Now has a pledge that includes seven goals. They are for things like creating good jobs and having affordable, quality health care – a standard progressive agenda.

One goal is “Equal Opportunity for All.” That deals with criminal justice issues. And under Equal Opportunity for All, there are three sub-goals if you want to call them that – equal pay for equal work regardless of gender or race; ending mass incarceration; and freedom from ethnic and racial profiling.

And that’s what the candidates signed. And that includes eight Mecklenburg House members.

Worf: So, there is no talk about defunding the police in that pledge, then?

Harrison: Well, not in the pledge. But this gets a little complicated. The group Future Now has a webpage that has a “policy library” for each of the goals. And in that library is a proposal called  “Improve Public Safety by Reinvesting Policing Savings in Community Based and Prevention Programs.

And this is what Moore zeroed in on. It says that “Police funding … has been shown to have no connection to crime rates.” It says police officers should focus on problems they are trained to address -- notably public safety  -- and not focus on issues like homelessness and substance abuse.

It wants cities to invest “police savings” in “proven” social services programs.

I think the statement about police funding having no correlation to crime rates is interesting. Because you hear similar things from conservatives about education funding. If you adjust it for inflation over time, it’s increased – while student achievement hasn’t risen accordingly.

And that brings up the idea of what does "defunding the police" mean, exactly? For some people it means to fully defund them, rebuilding police departments from the ground up. For others it means shifting some money away from departments to social service agencies.

Worf: And what does Future Now say about this?

Harrison: It released a statement saying the speaker’s comments are a “lie built on a lie.”

The group says the people who signed the pledge only agreed to work for the overall goals and that the specific policy library is completely separate.

It says it doesn’t have a formal position on defunding the police. That may be officially true, but the fact that the group suggests that moving money from police departments on its website suggests that Future Now thinks it’s a good idea, in some form.

Mecklenburg Democratic state House member Rachel Hunt signed the Future Now pledge in 2018 – before the policy library about police funding was added this year after the death of George Floyd.

“Well I do not support defunding the police,” Hunt said. “I believe in reform and making police departments better, and that is what I think needs to happen.”

Hunt is one of eight Mecklenburg House members who signed on at one time or another, out of 12 members. The group has given the maximum donation of $5,400 to one Mecklenburg House member, Christy Clark. She is in probably the closest Mecklenburg House race, in a rematch with Republican John Bradford. It’s given money to other legislative candidates statewide who are in close races.

So I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the legislative candidates signed a pledge to defund the police. But they are aligned with a group – and some have received money from a group  -- that has  discussed shifting money from police departments.

Future Now has model legislation on its Web site that calls for state's to create commissions to study ways to "reduce excessive policing and reinvest the money saved into proved strategies and programs to support communities and reduce crime." 

Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter, Inside Politics. Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters. 

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.