City Officials Weigh Police Department Budget Cuts Amid Nationwide Protests

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 03: A large group of people are arrested for demonstrating past curfew near City Hall over the death of George Floyd on June 3, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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June 4, 2020 4:41 p.m.

Elected officials in major cities are weighing cuts to their police departments’ budgets, a common demand from activists protesting the police killing of George Floyd. 

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) announced that he’d look for $250 million from city departments for “reinvesting in black communities and communities of color.” LA Police Commission President Eileen Decker said that $100 to $150 million of that would come from the LA Police Department’s allotment.

Garcetti also announced that he will axe a budget increase that he initially proposed, and that was written into the city’s budget proposal. It would have ballooned the LAPD budget from $1.189 billion to $1.86 billion and included $41 million in bonuses. 

Garcetti promised upcoming details about where the money would be rerouted.

The LA city council codified the announcement with a motion ordering the City Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst to find the $100-$150 million in cuts. LA City Council President Nury Martinez called it a “reset” of priorities after Floyd’s killing, adding that “we cannot talk about change, we have to be about change.” 

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, responded to an earlier iteration of a budget cut proposal with outrage.

“Cutting the LAPD budget means longer responses to 911 emergency calls, officers calling for back-up won’t get it, and rape, murder and assault investigations won’t occur or will take forever to initiate, let alone complete,” the group said in a statement. “At this time, with violent crime increasing, a global pandemic and nearly a week’s worth of violence, arson, and looting, ‘defunding’ the LAPD is the most irresponsible thing anyone can propose.”

Garcetti has been under intense pressure from protesters, many of whom have been demonstrating outside his house. Earlier this week, he provoked their ire by standing by LAPD police chief Michael Moore who seemed to lay the blame for Floyd’s killing on those looting the city.

“We didn’t have protests last night — we had criminal acts,” Moore had said Monday. “We didn’t have people mourning the death of this man, George Floyd — we had people capitalizing. His death is on their hands as much as it is those officers.”

Moore corrected himself, saying the blame lies with the police officers, and Garcetti later said that he knows the chief “didn’t mean it.” 

The police budget cut idea is bouncing around other city councils as well, in places that have seen robust and sustained protests. 

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the site of Floyd’s killing, city council members are considering further divestment from traditional policing. In prior years, council members redirected money earmarked for the police department to violence prevention and community outreach. According to the local Southwest Journal, the city was already tasked with finding cuts due to losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York City, the comptroller has joined in calls from city council members for a $1 billion cut from the police budget over four years, and a rerouting of the funds into community development. Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, said that calls to “defund the police” are “not the way forward.”

And in Phoenix, Arizona, the city council will hold a special session on Monday to debate activists’ call for a 25 percent cut to the police department’s budget.

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