If Democrats don’t stop defunding the police officers who keep us safe, then legislators need to defund the Democrats.

I recently met with police officers from the Columbus Police Department, and what they told me was both shocking and deeply distressing. Put simply, officers are increasingly afraid to do their jobs.

It’s not that they fear for their own safety, per se — these are some of the bravest individuals I’ve ever met. But they’re also smart enough to read between the lines, and they can see that local political leaders don’t support them and don’t have their backs. Under those conditions, it becomes even riskier to do an already dangerous job.

Politicians are implementing policies that directly encourage criminality, making it more difficult for officers to take the sorts of actions they know from training and experience are necessary to protect the community. The officers I spoke with told me that Columbus has decriminalized certain crimes, resulting in an explosion of crime and homelessness. The politicians behind these policies may think they’re compassionate, but the real-world consequences show the exact opposite is true.

Being homeless doesn’t make someone a bad person, but it’s undeniably true there is a criminal element in any homeless population. Police officers say the people they interact with increasingly don’t want to be helped or taken to a shelter, and decriminalization deprives officers of the opportunity to get people off the street before they commit crimes — and before they become the victims of crimes.

City officials nationwide are also starving the police of resources. Officers have told me their cruisers are in terrible shape and other equipment is outdated, putting them at a disadvantage relative to the criminals they confront. Somehow, though, politicians simultaneously expect departments to find a way to equip officers with body cameras, diverting resources that could be used to ensure they have the tools to protect both the public and themselves properly.

The anti-police mentality goes beyond city halls. The actions and rhetoric of Democratic officials and leftist activists send a strong message to young people, and they’re receiving it loud and clear.

The student government at Ohio State University, for instance, has demanded the university stop cooperating with the Columbus Police Department. Adding insult to injury, the letter from student leaders implicitly accused the very officers who protect students from rapes, assaults, and murders of racism, declaring their mere presence on campus somehow endangers black students. This is ridiculous on its face, not to mention how insulting and degrading it is to the men and women in blue who risk their lives every single day to protect these young entitled punks.

The consequences of this institutional hostility toward police will only grow more severe with time. Young people who grow up in an anti-police society are more likely to view officers as a threat, rather than public servants who are there to protect and serve. This, in turn, will make policing more difficult and dangerous than it already is while discouraging citizens from sharing information that could help police keep people safe. It is a vicious cycle that begins with political posturing and rhetoric and ends with mayhem in the streets.

State and federal lawmakers don’t have the power to make decisions at the local level, nor should they. They do, however, have significant leverage over local officials in the form of funding, which local politicians use to provide popular services to constituents without having to impose unpopular new taxes.

If Democratic city officials decide to defund the police, legislators should respond by defunding the Democrats in City Hall.

Josh Mandel, the former treasurer of Ohio, is a candidate for U.S. Senate.