In New York City, protests have continued almost daily, one month after the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Similar to cities across the country, protesters and movements have raised the demand that the city administration cut all funding for the police department, or defund the police. On June 30, the city council passed the budget for the 2021 fiscal year and despite sustained protests and a one week protest occupation outside city hall, councillors resolved to only cut 1 billion from the New York Police Department (NYPD) budget.
The budget cuts, even though significant, still leaves the police with close to USD 5 billion in direct operating funding, with a similar number to match under other added expenses under other sources. The NYPD continues to be among the highest funded departments in the city which has a total budget of 88 billion dollars.
Activists expressed their dissatisfaction over the budget cut, criticizing the city administration for engaging in “accounting tricks”. Protesters have pointed out that most of the reform for the police budget is from merely shifting the budget for homeless outreach, crossing guards and school safety to other departments.
Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said while criticizing her party colleagues’ running the city administration, “defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math. It does not mean moving school police officers from the NYPD budget to the Department of Education’s budget so the exact same police remain in schools.”
Many have argued that such shifting of budget to other departments was not enough, since the money will eventually be directed to the NYPD by hiring their services for the same. The rest of the cuts comes from overtime reduction and cancellation of police classes. Many have criticized this as being simply part of the rest of the larger budget cuts, affecting all departments.
Protesters have also criticized the fact that the overall budget cuts of close to USD 5 billion this year, translates into freezing of hiring and incentives social welfare, education and healthcare. The city administration justified the cuts as a result of the revenue shortfall of over USD 9 billion due to the COVID19 pandemic.
The NYC public advocate Jumaane Williams has publicly stated that he will use the reserve power of his office and block the budget. In a statement released on July 1, Williams said that “in a moment when New Yorkers, with the entire nation, are demanding a reimagining of public safety, a reckoning with systemic injustices and inequities, the city falls far short with a budget that misses the moment of need.”
Williams demanded a hiring freeze, something that is being imposed on other departments and services. He also called for a change in the current system of school safety and to turn to a model of “restorative justice”.
“In a moment when New Yorkers, with the entire nation, are demanding a reimagining of public safety, a reckoning with systemic injustices and inequities, the city falls far short with a budget that misses the moment of need.”
FULL STATEMENT ON FY2021 BUDGET: pic.twitter.com/D8j4wChQue
— Office of the Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams (@nycpa) July 1, 2020