Amid ‘Defund’ Demands, Cities Maintain Police Spending

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Since the rallying cry to defund the police after George Floyd’s killing almost eight months ago, most major U.S. cities have been unwilling to make meaningful cuts, reports Bloomberg City Lab. Even as the 50 largest U.S. cities reduced 2021 police budgets by more than five percent, often as part of broader pandemic cost-cutting, law enforcement spending as a share of general expenditures rose slightly to 13.7 percent from 13.6 percent. Cities like Minneapolis and Seattle have watered down or paused proposed cuts. Disparities in policing were evident last week when a predominantly white mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Videos emerged of officers appearing to open barricades for rioters, offering a stark contrast to summer protests, where some largely peaceful demonstrators were met with brutal force.

Police budgets will expand this year in cities like Atlanta, Omaha and Phoenix. Of 42 major cities where Democrats picked up more votes in the 2020 presidential race versus 2016, 24 increased police spending for fiscal 2021, while 18 made cuts. Chris Burbank of  the Center for Policing Equity and former Salt Lake City police chief, fears the seemingly muted response at the Capitol marks a step back in the reckoning over racism in policing The divide is significant and “very difficult to repair,” he said. In Minneapolis, where the city council wrestled with public safety concerns amid a violent crime wave and the financial constraints wrought by the coronavirus, a plan adopted in December was considered a compromise: reducing the department’s ability to spend overtime with impunity and creating new alternatives to police responses, while planning to expand officer recruitment in 2022. Despite setbacks, activists say there is more momentum than ever before behind reform. Joe Biden’s administration has signaled it supports spending on training and oversight, rather than cuts. See also: “Can Defunding Address Police Crisis?” 

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