Facing pressure from thousands of constituents calling to defund the police, New York City slashed $1 billion from the police budget. But some city lawmakers – and the protesters calling for change – think the cuts weren’t sweeping enough.
The City Council approved the $88.9 billion 2021 budget late Tuesday night while hundreds of protesters, many of whom have camped outside City Hall for a week, waited to hear the results.
The New York Police Department is the largest force in the US and employs over 55,000. The department budget was almost $6 billion for the 2020 fiscal year.
The approved budget includes nearly $484 million in cuts and will reallocate $354 million to other agencies “best positioned to carry out the duties that have been previously assigned to the New York Police Department, like the Department of Education, the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and the Department of Homeless Services. Another $162 million was slashed through “associated costs,” the council said in a statement.
The approved budget also moves about $500 million of the department’s capital budget to other “badly needed infrastructure,” the City Council said, and reduces overtime spending by $352 million.
The NYPD will also transfer control of the city’s school safety program to the Department of Education, the council said. The NYPD will remove crossing guards and pull out of homeless outreach services since, the council said, “police often merely moved these individuals from one unsafer spot to another, continuing the cycle of injustice.”
“This was a hard-fought battle, which marks the beginning of the Council’s efforts to not only limit the size and scope of the NYPD, but also reimagine how we structure criminal justice and public safety in this city,” the city council said.
On Tuesday, as Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a budget deal was reached, he said he felt it was important to take money from the NYPD’s capital program and put it into the hands of young people and communities in need.
“I said, we have to keep the city safe, we have to protect the levels of patrol strength throughout our communities,” de Blasio said. “And we had to make sure that we were really doing something to refocus resources on young people and on communities hardest hit.”
Tensions between NYPD and New Yorkers boiled over in May, during protests against racism and police brutality, and often resulted in violence. Among other incidents, city officials are investigating the department after a police cruiser was filmed driving into a crowd of protesters, and an officer accused of shoving a protester to the ground and concussing her was arrested.
Calls to defund or abolish the police have becoming a familiar demand at police brutality protests across the country. So far, just Minneapolis has pledged to look at ways to dismantle its existing police department after four officers were charged with the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose death spurred the protests.
City officials aren’t satisfied
The budget cuts and reallocations don’t constitute a complete victory, officials said. City Council speaker Corey Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he wanted the cuts to go deeper.
“This isn’t a billion dollars. And I’m not going to pretend that it is,” Johnson said. “To everyone who is disappointed that we did not go farther I want to let you know – I am disappointed as well … But this budget process involves the mayor who was not budging.”