Defund the police’ faces skepticism even in deeply liberal cities


But even in these liberal bastions, the motion is working into resistance.

“These are very blue places, yet we’re still seeing this kind of dynamic with police spending skyrocketing and cuts to community resources and community-led programs,” mentioned Kumar Rao, director of justice transformation at the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal Brooklyn-based advocacy group. “This is a political issue on one level, but it’s actually very much a bipartisan problem.”

In the nation’s capital, Mayor Muriel Bowser had “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted on the road resulting in the White House after federal officers forcibly cleared out protesters with tear fuel and rubber bullets to make means for a presidential picture op exterior a historic church. A day later, Black Lives Matter activists painted “DEFUND THE POLICE” subsequent to the authentic message.

Bowser, nonetheless, has proposed a 3.Three % improve, to $578 million, in police spending in the metropolis’s fiscal yr 2021 price range. She told NPR final week that she was “not at all” reconsidering her place.

“We fund the police at the level that we need it funded,” she mentioned.

That stance is at odds, nonetheless, with the metropolis council, which has been inundated by the public outcry for police reform. Dozens of public witnesses testified at a six-hour digital Metropolitan Police Department price range oversight listening to Monday in opposition to elevated police spending.

More than 500 had folks signed as much as testify, and members of the public submitted greater than 15,000 written, video and cellphone submissions, the native information web site DCist reported, noting that the record of audio system was minimize off as a consequence of time constraints. In distinction, solely 22 folks spoke ultimately yr’s police price range listening to.

“The theme was clear in the testimony, which was a call to evaluate the budget of the Metropolitan Police Department, make appropriate cuts and redirect the funding to meet the needs of residents that have suffered from over-policing and other government disinvestment,” mentioned Kenyan McDuffie, a member of the D.C. Council and chair professional tempore.

In a cellphone interview, McDuffie informed POLITICO the council has been aware of the public’s recommendations and is “likely” to chop the police division’s price range to reinvest in the group’s priorities, regardless of Bowser’s opposition. He famous that the council unanimously handed a sequence of police reforms final week however warned that police reform is just one step in dismantling systemic racism and structural inequities.

The price range course of is constant to play out in D.C., with price range markups set for subsequent week. The full council is scheduled to carry its first vote on the price range on July 7, and the ultimate vote is anticipated July 28.

The District is only one of dozens of cities from the East Coast to the West Coast grappling with the message behind the “defund police” motto. To critics, it’s a literal name to bankrupt and abolish police departments. But to many leaders, it’s a name to reform policing; rethink when, the place and the way police must be deployed; minimize police budgets; and make investments more cash in communities, as a substitute of in policing communities.

“You ask folks what does defunding the police imply — you ask three folks, you’ll get three totally different opinions,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti informed California Playbook in a digital interview Tuesday. “But I think what is crystal clear to all of us is that we are underfunding black communities — whether it’s economic development, whether it’s education, whether it’s health — and other communities of color.”

Garcetti mentioned he supported a reevaluation of police funding however didn’t embrace calls to completely defund or dismantle police departments.

Rashad Robinson, government director of the racial justice group Color of Change, famous that activists throughout the nation are seeing a motion of cities starting to look at their budgets extra intently amid calls to defund police.

“Budgets are moral documents, right? They say what our values are,” he mentioned. “Beyond any rhetoric, beyond words, they tell the story of what we actually hope to achieve by what we put money in, and far too often, when we have problems in our society, we seek to solve them with people with guns.”

Hundreds of residents and activists have flooded digital council conferences in metropolis after metropolis with calls to defund and reform police departments. According to a POLITICO evaluation of metropolis budgets, crime statistics and census information, there’s no direct correlation between police spending and crime.

The grassroots power overwhelming metropolis councils comes in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the fingers of a white Minneapolis police officer on May 25. Floyd’s demise led to international protests in opposition to police brutality and racism, and “defund the police”  grew to become a rallying cry.

Minneapolis’ metropolis council has since unanimously passed a resolution to disband its police division and substitute it after a yr of analysis and group engagement. But Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo wish to reform the division fairly than dismantle it.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio earlier this month pledged to cut the police department’s funding. De Blasio did not specify how a lot he would curb spending, however the metropolis council is eying a minimize of almost 20 % after calling for a 7 % discount weeks earlier. The council has a July 1 deadline to cross a price range.

Atlanta’s metropolis council has a particular assembly to undertake its price range Friday, every week after 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police exterior a Wendy’s drive-thru. Monday’s almost 12-hour council assembly included the taking part in of almost 500 public feedback that had been submitted.

The council accredited two resolutions urging the metropolis and the state Legislature to undertake insurance policies implementing complete police reform and calling for a report of suggestions for the metropolis’s strategy to public security, together with systematic modifications to insurance policies and reinventing the tradition of policing, to be submitted by Dec. 1.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a contender to develop into Biden’s working mate who signed an order this week to reform the police division’s use of power, has said Atlanta is forward of the curve as a result of it’s already in the technique of reallocating public security funds.

But the metropolis council is poised so as to add about $12 million to the police division’s price range when it votes Friday, in keeping with Felicia Moore, the council’s president. Moore informed POLITICO that metropolis officers had pledged final yr to extend police spending for 4 years following a research by the Atlanta Police Foundation that found Atlanta officers had been paid nicely beneath the median charges.

“I can’t speak for what their votes will be, but I would tend to think that reneging on a promise to keep our salaries competitive would be something that they wouldn’t want to do,” Moore mentioned.

“All the money’s not gonna be spent on the day that we adopt a budget,” she added. “They may go back and revisit the budget and make some adjustments. I just think the issue came up in a time frame that doesn’t give the council a full opportunity to make the decision” to defund the police division proper now.


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