How 'defund the police' has taken shape across the country

November 12, 2020
Julian Baron
Local 21 News

WASHINGTON (SBG) - In the wake of nationwide calls to defund the police, government officials in several major U.S. cities have made significant cuts to their local police budgets, part of a sweeping police reform effort sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The movement to defund police departments began in Minneapolis shortly after Floyd's death in late May. Two months later, the Minneapolis City Council moved $1.1 million out of the police department's budget, according to MPR News.

The decision to reduce the Minneapolis Police Department's budget comes as the city faces a 152% increase in homicides over the past two years. Minneapolis has also seen a surge in violent crime, which is up nearly 23% from 2019, according to Minneapolis Police Department data.

Demonstrators in Minneapolis have also pushed to abolish the city's police department. In June, Mayor Jacob Frey told a crowd of protestors he did not believe in eliminating the police. He was promptly told to "get the f*** out of here" and to "go home" by irate locals.

After an initial announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City slashed its police budget by nearly $1 billion in early July, according to the New York Times. Much of the budget cut came from recategorizing certain police services to other city agencies.

Communities United for Police Reform, a New York City-based activist group, accused Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson of deceiving the public by reallocating police funds under the guise of a budget cut.

"Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson are using funny math and budget tricks to try to mislead New Yorkers into thinking that they plan to meet the movement's demands for at least $1B in direct cuts," a spokesperson for the group told Politico.

Shooting incidents in New York City are up nearly 100% compared to this time last year, while homicides have increased 38% over the same timeframe, according to New York Police Department data.

A similar situation is unfolding in Los Angeles, where the City Council eliminated $150 million from the city's police department budget. The budget cut will force LAPD to downsize units focused on homicides, robberies, gangs, and narcotics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles is grappling with a 25% rise in homicides and a 28% uptick in shootings compared to 2019, but robberies are down nearly 20%, according to Los Angeles Police Department data.

In the nation's capital, the D.C. Council approved a $15 million cut to the local police department despite pushback from Mayor Muriel Bowser, who christened a downtown street "Black Lives Matter Plaza" amid civil unrest in June.

"Fewer officers would protect a District population that has increased by more than 17 percent, and where calls for police service have increased by 21 percent in the last decade alone," Bowser wrote in a letter to the D.C. Council. "These reductions will be felt across all eight wards."

Black Lives Matter DC believes the Black Lives Matter movement is synonymous with defunding the police and has accused Mayor Bowser of only superficially supporting the movement in light of her resistance to cutting the police budget.

Washington D.C. is facing a 19% jump in homicides since last year, though overall violent crime is down slightly, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. The city has also been swept with protests and riots over the past several months.

In Utah, the Salt Lake City Council agreed to reduce the Salt Lake City Police Department's budget by $5.3 million. Though the funds were diverted from the police budget, they are being used in part to purchase more body-worn cameras and to enhance the department's social worker program.

In the Pacific Northwest, both Portland, Ore. and Seattle have eliminated millions from their police department budgets. The Portland City Council cut its police budget to the tune of $15 million, while the Seattle City Council went even further, slashing the city's police budget by nearly $23 million.

Many other major U.S. cities have made cuts to their police departments, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Several medium-sized cities, such as Hartford, Conn. and Madison, Wis., have also answered calls to defund the police with budget cuts.

Topics: NYC Budget Justice