State Watch

Minneapolis, other cities consider cuts to police budgets

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In Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed by police last week, City Council members are expected to vote Friday on a series of immediate changes to the city’s police force. 

The vote follows City Council President Lisa Bender and Council member Jeremiah Ellison tweeting on Thursday that they were “going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” with Bender adding that it would be replaced with “a transformative new model of public safety.”

Steve Fletcher, council member for the city’s 3rd ward, wrote an op-ed in Time on Friday, in which he said “[t]hings are not going back to normal.”

While the changes to be voted on are not expected to include any financial reductions to the department, the stipulation will outlaw Minneapolis officers from performing chokeholds and bystanding officers will be required to intervene when illegal force is used.

Calls for cities to consider defunding their police departments because of unjust policies have escalated as protests sparked by the death of Floyd have convulsed the country.

Floyd was killed last Monday when former city police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, continuing to do so until Floyd was unconscious. Bystander video shows Floyd saying he couldn’t breathe multiple times as Chauvin continued to hold him to the street.

Chauvin and the other three officers at the scene were quickly fired by the department. 

Initially, Chauvin was arrested and charged on Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter, but Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) on Wednesday increased the murder charge to second-degree murder. Ellison also arrested and charged the other officers with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

The calls also come as many cities are facing budget cuts because of the economic tailspin that the coronavirus pandemic has caused. With budget cuts all but guaranteed, many local governments have begun to look at cutting police funding.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan on Thursday to reduce the city’s police budget and reallocate those funds to social programs that benefit black communities. The plan does not specify how much it plans on cutting, but comes amid a $1.7 billion budget shortfall for the city.

In Philadelphia, the Mayor Jim Kenney is proposing cutting the city’s main civilian police oversight board while adding $23 million in new funds to law enforcement, according to WHYY.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced he is throwing out plans for a massive police budget hike as support for slashing police department funds grows. 

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was originally set to get a 7 percent increase in its budget, which included bonuses for police officers, the Los Angeles Times reported. That would bring their budget from $1.189 billion last fiscal year to $1.86 billion.

The LAPD makes up 17.6 percent of the city’s overall $10.5 billion budget, the Times noted.

After demands from protesters, some of whom gathered in front of Garcetti’s home, the city is now looking for ways to cut between $100 million to $150 million. 

“We need to make sure that black Americans see an end to the days of murder in broad daylight and of traffic stops simply because of the color of their skin,” the mayor said.

In New York, more than 40 city council candidates are calling for a $1 billion cut to the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) $6 billion budget over four years. They’re asking for those funds to go to social services. 

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is running to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2021, put out a roadmap to reduce NYPD spending by $1 billion.

Under his plan, the funds would be moved “toward vulnerable communities most impacted by police violence and structural racism.”

In Phoenix, activists are requesting a 25 percent reduction in the police department’s budget but the city council has refused to consider the motion, according to the Arizona Republic. 

Tags Arizona Bill de Blasio California George Floyd protests Keith Ellison Los Angeles Minneapolis Minnesota New York New York City Philadelphia Police

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