New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to make a major concession to anti-police brutality protesters on Sunday, saying that he would cut money from the NYPD’s massive $6 billion budget and reallocate it toward social services. If he follows through, it would mark the first time in his tenure that he’s cut funding for the NYPD, the largest police force in the U.S.
Billy Thee Blasio announced the proposed changes in his State of the City speech on Sunday, after 10 nights of mass protests in all five of the city’s boroughs, reports New York City’s local CBS station, WLNY TV. Among his suggested reforms is shifting funding from cops to youth and social services, improving transparency in police discipline, moving enforcement of street vending away from the NYPD to a civilian agency, and adding community-based liaisons to advise senior-level NYPD.
“People did not protest for the sake of protest. They protest to achieve change, and now we must deliver that change,” said de Blasio, making the most obvious observation in the history of ever. He said he would consult with the City Council to hash out the details ahead of the July 1 budget deadline.
It was a reversal from de Blasio’s earlier refusal to take money away from the agency, which is the second-largest metro police department in the world.
“I do not believe it’s a good idea to reduce the budget of the agency that’s here to keep us safe,” de Blasio said last Friday, during his daily City Hall briefing.
Even now, as The New York Times reports, it’s unclear how much money he’ll actually siphon away the NYPD, which currently commands 6 percent of the entire city budget.
“We’re committed to seeing a shift of funding to youth services, to social services, that will happen literally in the course of the next three weeks, but I’m not going to go into detail because it is subject to negotiation and we want to figure out what makes sense,” de Blasio said.
His decision comes as more people around the country are calling on their mayors and city councils to defund the police. In Minneapolis on Sunday, the City Council vowed to disband the Minneapolis Police Department after nearly two weeks of protests following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of MPD officers.
Floyd was detained by four MPD officers after a store owner called the police about an alleged fake $20 bill.
His death helped galvanize massive Black Lives Matter protests around the world, calling for accountability for systemic racism and police brutality. In response to the protests, police in many American cities have responded to the anti-state violence protests with.... a lot of violence.
The mass protests have undoubtedly added to the long, ongoing conversation around defunding the police, particularly during a global pandemic that has highlighted America’s porous safety net with regard to health care and social services.
Police departments typically seize the lion’s share of city budgets. According to a new Bloomberg report, state and local governments spend a combined $114.5 billion on policing each year.
For perspective, that number is more than 20 percent of Switzerland’s GDP, more than half the GDP of New Zealand or Greece, and more than the GDP of Costa Rica and Uruguay combined.
Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter, told NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday that the call to defund the police is rooted in the need to reinvest in marginalized communities and give them much-needed resources.
“Why can’t we start to look at how it is that we reorganize our priorities so people don’t have to be in the streets protesting...in a global pandemic?” Garza said.
De Blasio’s wishy-washiness with regard to pushing forward structural changes stands at odds with his own staffers, some of whom wrote an open letter to the mayor Monday calling out the “toxic workplace environment” in his office.
“It is not enough to call out the structural racism that exists in the country, without putting in place anti-racist policies to ensure you are not further contributing to it,” said the former and current staffers, in an exclusive to The Root.
Photos of a protest taken this Monday morning show many more city staffers showing solidarity with the protesters.
Looks like it’s time to shake up those NYPD coffers, Bill.