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Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
Photo: Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Philadelphia follows nationwide trend of rejecting fiscal law enforcement budgets for 2021

New York City and Los Angeles announced budget cuts and shifting funds for law enforcement in 2020- 2021 and Philadelphia City Council is now seeking to do the…

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Yesterday 14 of the 17 Philadelphia council members signed and sent a letter to Mayor Jim Kenney, rejecting the $14 million increase proposal for law enforcement funding. This call to action comes as the Black Lives Matter protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis in Philadelphia have not haltered, and the initial 2020-2021 fiscal budget proposal included major cuts due to COVID-19 in other facets like public health, social services, housing, violence prevention, youth programs, recreation centers- but not law enforcement.

However, Kenney’s opening statement on June 5th (right before councilmembers letter) said:

“We understand these concerns. We all have reasons to be deeply disturbed by systemic racism that has plagued our society for far too long, including disparities in policing, and we appreciate residents' civic engagement and action to hold the City accountable. It is important to note that Philadelphia City Council ultimately approves the budget. We encourage residents to make their voices heard at upcoming budget hearings that are being held virtually due to the pandemic.”

 

This comes days after New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced police reform as well as a shift in funding from law enforcement to youth programs. Though still not clear how much will go towards these programs, de Blasio noted that “The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead. But I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people.”


Additionally, three Los Angeles councilmembers filed a motion last week to cut the LAPD’s budget by up to $150 million dollars for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti also supported this decision after BLM activists in LA protested outside his home on June 2.

 

In an interview with GMA, California Senator Kamala Harris supported Garcetti’s decision to cut back spending on law enforcement, saying that: “Right now what we’re seeing in America is many cities spend over one third of their entire budget on policing. But meanwhile, we’ve been defunding public schools for years in America.”

 

As protests continue nationwide- and more senators, governors, mayors hear the voices of their citizens and answer to their needs, the question remains: Are cutbacks on law enforcement enough for the change that America needs?

Philadelphia will have a hearing for its proposed police department budget tomorrow, June 10 at 9:30 am.

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