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Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. speaks in 2013. (Charles Dharapak, AP) Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. speaks in 2013. (Charles Dharapak, AP)

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. speaks in 2013. (Charles Dharapak, AP)

Clara Hendrickson
By Clara Hendrickson September 28, 2020

Fred Upton campaign ad says Jon Hoadley voted to defund the police. That’s not true.

If Your Time is short

  • An ad for Rep. Fred Upton’s re-election campaign features a sheriff claiming that Upton’s Democratic challenger, Jon Hoadley, voted to defund the police.

  • Hoadley voted against a state House resolution discouraging local governments from defunding or abolishing their police departments. The resolution did not propose increasing or decreasing spending for local law enforcement. 

  • Hoadley has talked about the importance of criminal justice reform but he has not called for reducing spending on policing.

A television ad from incumbent U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., attacks his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Jon Hoadley, for a vote he cast in June in Michigan’s House.

"Hoadley voted against law enforcement, siding with defund the police, making families less safe," the narrator in the ad claims.

The ad features Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, who claims that "what Hoadley did to vote to defund the police was wrong."

But Hoadley didn’t vote to defund the police.

Upton’s ad cites Hoadley’s Jun. 17 vote against a resolution adopted by the Michigan House that discourages local governments in Michigan from defunding or abolishing their local police departments. Resolutions offer the Legislature a way to state its priorities, but they are nonbinding.

The resolution did not propose to increase or decrease funding for local police departments, whose budgets are determined at the local level.

Bailey stands by his claim that Hoadley voted to defund the police. "It is concerning when Jon Hoadley – who sits on the Appropriations Committee – talks about how frustrating it is that ‘everything but police got cut’ or how important it is to discuss ‘reprioritizing parts of our budget.’ Then, just weeks later, he chooses to vote against a resolution that discourages local governments from defunding or abolishing their police departments," Bailey said in a statement to PolitiFact Michigan.

Bailey was referring to remarks Hoadley made during a June 12 event organized by Mothers of Hope, a community organization based in Kalamazoo, during which Hoadley was asked about his position on defunding the police. "It is frustrating that everything but police got cut whenever there was a question — was the pile big enough? So I think it’s important we’re having this conversation now about reprioritizing parts of our budget," Hoadley said.

"It's clear to me and in the eyes of law enforcement – his vote was a vote to defund the police," Bailey added.

Josh Paciorek, communications director for Upton’s campaign, told PolitiFact Michigan in an email: "We’re taking law enforcement’s view on this one."

The phrase "defunding the police" has come to refer to a range of policies, from redirecting some funding toward community development initiatives to dismantling police agencies altogether. It has served as a shorthand rallying cry for activists demanding police reforms, as well as a political cudgel for conservatives seeking to paint liberals as soft on crime.

Hoadley said he did not vote to defund the police. "I voted against an inaccurate resolution that was attempting to score political points, not solve problems," he said in a statement to PolitiFact Michigan. "Many of my colleagues spoke to the need to vote ‘no’ on the resolution and continue the real work on criminal justice reform, racial justice, and properly supporting public safety so both officers and residents are more secure."

Featured Fact-check

Michigan House resolution discouraged budget cuts to local law enforcement, but did not boost funding.

The resolution Upton’s ad refers to was introduced by Republican state Rep. Ryan Berman and passed with support of all 58 House Republicans and 21 House Democrats. Hoadley was among the 29 Democratic members of the House who voted against the resolution.

Berman explained that he introduced the resolution as a kind of referendum on calls to defund or abolish police departments. "The notion of outright defunding police departments is dangerous, and I’ve tendered this resolution to take a stand against it," said Berman on the House floor.

The resolution did not propose increasing funding for local law enforcement departments.

While Berman and Hoadley took different positions on the resolution, they agreed on one thing: The COVID-induced economic recession has created fiscal challenges for local governments that could affect police budgets.

"With potentially massive budget shortfalls facing us due to COVID-19, I imagine it will be even tougher for departments financially in the coming years," Berman said on the House floor.

In a statement explaining his vote, Hoadely agreed with Berman’s assessment but argued that that the resolution’s intent would strip local governments of the flexibility they need to respond to budget shortfalls.

"We cannot opine from the floor of the statehouse on what local communities should or (should) not spend their dollars on while not offering solutions," said Hoadley, adding: "How do you tell your local firefighters that potentially half of you are going to have to get laid off but, that’s OK because this resolution thought that police departments shouldn’t be subject to the same budget realities as everyone else?"

Paciorek, from the Upton campaign, argued that Hoadley’s acknowledgement of the fiscal constraints facing local governments — including police — was inconsistent with his vote. "Why would he vote against a resolution that discourages local governments from stripping even more resources from police services?" he asked.

Hoadley criticized the resolution as a way of shutting down debate around police reform, but he did not say that funding for police should be reduced.

Our ruling

A campaign ad from Upton says Hoadley voted to defund the police.

In June, Hoadley voted against a resolution discouraging local governments from reducing their police department’s budgets or abolishing their department. He cited the need to continue discussion about criminal justice reform and to give local governments flexibility to make spending decisions.

He did not vote to reduce spending on law enforcement.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Upton for All of Us, campaign ad, September 8, 2020 

Michigan House, House Resolution No. 277

Michigan Votes, House Roll Call 241 on 2020 House Resolution 277, June 17, 2020

State of Michigan Journal of the House of Representatives, No. 55

PolitiFact, Miriam Valverde, "‘Defund the police’ movement: What do activists mean by that?," June 9, 2020

State Representative Ryan Berman, Facebook post, June 18, 2020

Stephanie Moore, Facebook post, June 12, 2020

Josh Paciorek, Communications Director, Upton for All of Us, email exchange, September 15, 2020

Brittany Bodenheimer, Communications Director, Hoadley for Congress, email exchange, September 14, 2020

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More by Clara Hendrickson

Fred Upton campaign ad says Jon Hoadley voted to defund the police. That’s not true.

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