'Authoritarian' Ron DeSantis’ campaign to 'weaponize state power' hasn’t made Florida any safer: libertarian

'Authoritarian' Ron DeSantis’ campaign to 'weaponize state power' hasn’t made Florida any safer: libertarian

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' MAGA supporters have been touting his 2024 presidential campaign as the GOP's best chance to move on from the chaos of Donald Trump while maintaining many of Trump's policies — and even improve on them. DeSantis has been trying to convince Republican primary voters that he is tougher on crime than the former president, who has been way ahead of him in polls.

But libertarian journalist/author Radley Balko, in a blistering op-ed published by The Daily Beast on June 6, emphasizes that DeSantis' "authoritarian impulses" and efforts to "weaponize state power" have not made Florida any safer.

"The murder rate in San Francisco is significantly lower than that of the entire state of Florida — an incredible statistic, given that crime is usually more concentrated in cities," Balko observes. "The murder rate in Los Angeles is significantly lower than major Florida cities like Miami and Tallahassee. And Jacksonville has consistently had the highest murder rate in the state, despite a series of Republican mayors and lead prosecutors."

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Balko continues, "DeSantis has also repeated the Republican line that crime has soared in blue cities because of 'woke' criminal justice policy. That too just isn't true. In 2020 and 2021, the homicide rate in GOP whipping boy cities like New York and San Francisco was lower than that of nearly every large Republican-run city, including Omaha, Fresno, Tulsa, Colorado Springs and Oklahoma City."

Over the years, Balko has been a scathing critic of the War on Drugs, no-knock drug raids and the Prison-Industrial Complex. His 2013 book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces" and his past articles for Reason detailed countless examples of police killing or injuring innocent people when they targeted the wrong house or apartment for a no-knock drug raid.

One of Balko's points has been that authoritarian measures don't necessarily make the streets any safer — a theme he revisits in his op-ed on DeSantis.

"The overall homicide rate in Florida is about 50 percent higher than that of New York State," Balko notes. "In Miami, Florida's largest metro area — which has a Republican mayor and a traditional chief prosecutor — the homicide rate is about twice that of New York City…. DeSantis wants you to think that woke policies are stopping New York's cops from doing their jobs. But when it comes to both preventing and solving crimes, New York's city cops perform far better than Florida's."

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The libertarian adds, "And while Trump merely encouraged police brutality, DeSantis one-upped him there, too — he incentivized it. In 2021, the governor announced taxpayer-funded signing bonuses for any police officer who relocated to Florida from cities with what he called 'anti-cop' policies. Hundreds of cops have since taken the offer, many of them from NYPD."

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Read Radley Balko's full op-ed for The Daily Beast at this link (subscription required).

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