Democrats Promised Police Reform Was Going to Help Black Americans. Here’s What Happened.

Democrats’ sweeping criminal justice reforms, ostensibly aimed at combatting racial discrimination, have coincided with spikes in violent crime which have disproportionately impacted black Americans.


There’s a disconnect between racial justice rhetoric and policy outcomes. And voters have taken notice.


President Joe Biden has set the tone for Democratic efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system, which gained new momentum amid national protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020.

In the months following Floyd’s death, mostly Democratic jurisdictions passed hundreds of reforms, most of which were focused on reducing police brutality and imprisonment of black and Hispanic individuals in the name of combatting “systemic racism.”

  • Common legislative reforms included abolishing or dramatically reducing cash bail and reducing funding for police departments in favor of programs focused on mental health and community outreach, while elected “progressive prosecutors” have declined to prosecute some classes of crime like misdemeanors.
  • Biden, speaking to CBS in June 2020, said “systemic racism” in law enforcement exists and vowed to “change the way the entire criminal justice system functions and the prison system. It should turn into a rehabilitation system, not into just punishment.”


Critics have pointed to a growing number of studies to argue that Democratic reforms are behind a nationwide surge in violent crime.

  • A study released this month by the Heritage Foundation found that 27 out of 30 cities with the country’s highest crime rates are governed by Democrats.
  • The study refuted claims that Republican-governed states have more violent crime than their counterparts by demonstrating that violence in Democrat-governed cities and counties drove up crime rates in their otherwise red states.
  • These findings echoed a study by the Manhattan Institute which found that violent crime rates rose sharply in cities in 2021, while declining in suburban and rural areas.

Studies have shown that abolishing cash bail resulted in more violent crime in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, while “de-prosecution” resulted in 75 more murders per year in Philadelphia.


The increase in violent crime has disproportionately impacted black Americans, who are far more likely to be victimized than their white counterparts.

58% of murder victims killed last year were black, almost five times their share of the U.S. population, according to the FBI’s most recent national crime report.

  • Local data from some of America’s major cities showed the number of black murder victims increased relative to other races in 2020 and 2021.


A Pew Research Center survey released in October found that 82% of black Democratic voters said violent crime was very important to their midterm vote, compared to only one-third of white Democrats.

  • The share of black adults who want Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives more than doubled this year, from 6% to 14%, according to Quinnipiac University polls conducted in January and October.
  • A poll released Monday by the Wall Street Journal found that 17% of black voters planned to vote Republican in the 2022 midterms, up from 8% in the 2018 and 2020 elections.
  • Democratic pollsters have also expressed concern about a potential lack of turnout in this traditionally solid Democratic voter bloc, especially among black men.