Earlier this week, Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican Assemblymember from Staten Island who is running to unseat Democrat Max Rose from Congress, sent a missive to supporters.
“Yesterday, wacko mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was caving to Max Rose and the other extreme leftists’ demand and cutting $1 billion from the NYPD budget.”
On Wednesday, after that budget passed in the wee hours of the morning amid an unusual level of dissent within the Council, Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal-justice campaigns at Color Of Change, described it differently.
“With this shameful budget agreement, the mayor and the City Council have reminded New Yorkers that their allegiance to a racist, violent police force comes before the safety and well-being of their constituents,” he said in a statement.
Two things can be said about the fiscal 2021 budget. One is that it made almost no one happy.
The other is that it did not meaningfully reduce the operational size of the nation’s largest police force.
According to the mayor, the biggest hit to NYPD headcount amid the roughly $1 billion in announced budget changes was a $55 million cut in the form of the cancellation of the July police academy class, but there will be another class in October.
On Wednesday’s Max & Murphy Show on WBAI, Councilmember Brad Lander—one of the 17 members who voted against to budget—discussed the deal as a whole, as well as its treatment of the NYPD, and Joo-Hyun Kabvbng, the director of Communities United for Police Reform, explained why advocates are disappointed in the mayor and Council.
Lander pointed out that while the budget avoid some drastic steps, it did not steer clear of pain.
“When we say no layoffs, we mean no layoffs for city employees but we made huge cuts in the human services non-profit sector who deliver services with our tax dollars that we say we want,” he said. “There are definitely layoffs in the non-profit sector.” He added that the budget missed a chance to reset the nature of policing in New York as other cities, like Minneapolis, have done.
To be sure, some of the critics of the budget and the mayor, like Malliotakis and Queens Councilmember Robert Holden, had a polar opposite view – that the changes to the NYPD budget were an irresponsible surrender to activists that would lead to higher crime. Richard Aborn, the head of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission, hailed the budget as an appropriate compromise.
“Cutting cops in the midst of rapidly rising crime will not address many, or even any, of the very important issues that have been raised about policing. And further cutting overtime at the beginning of July, when the department relies on putting more cops out to cut crime, will have woeful effect,” he said. “The mayor and the City Council are to be applauded for having reached a compromise that doesn’t reduce current headcount and appears to preserve overtime for much needed police presence during the high crime months of July and August.”
Overall, as of June 21, index crime was down slightly in the city so far this year, but there have been significant increases in murders (up 23.9 percent), burglaries (up 47 percent) and car thefts (up 61 percent). Shootings were up 36 percent for the year; for the week of June 15 through 21, shooting were 342 percent higher than the same week in 2019.
The solution to that problem, Kang asserts, is not more policing, but more resources for communities to address to causes of conflict and violence. The city has shown increasing interest in the “cure violence” model that treats violence as a public-health matter. To work at scale, however, that approach requires real infrastructure and resources, and those are unlikely to be available so long as the NYPD absorbs so much of the taxpayers’ dime.
“The common denominator when it comes to safety is not more police, the common denominator is that those communities have more resources,” she said. “Part of our argument is that Black, Latinx, and other communities of color have been defunded for years if not decades in New York City through the city budget and that is part of what has made communities of color, particularly Black communities, most vulnerable in the public crisis we’ve had around COVID, experiencing disproportionate deaths, disproportionate infections.”