From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Some Police Budgets are Increasing, but that Doesn’t Mean the ‘Defund the Police’ Movement Isn’t Working
Date October 19, 2021 12:00 AM
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[Some cities are restoring police budgets that had been cut in
response to last year’s uprisings, but that doesn’t mean the
‘defund the police’ movement hasn’t fueled innovation across the
U.S.] [[link removed]]

SOME POLICE BUDGETS ARE INCREASING, BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THE
‘DEFUND THE POLICE’ MOVEMENT ISN’T WORKING  
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Ray Levy Uyeda
October 13, 2021
Prism
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_ Some cities are restoring police budgets that had been cut in
response to last year’s uprisings, but that doesn’t mean the
‘defund the police’ movement hasn’t fueled innovation across the
U.S. _

,

 

One year after the George Floyd uprisings that prompted a nationwide
reevaluation of what role police actually play in upholding public
safety, cities are backtracking on moves to redirect funds from
municipal police budgets. In response to the uprisings, civil rights
activists, community organizations, and protesters demanded that
officials defund police budgets, which often account for significant
portions of city spending and eclipse funding for local programs,
schools, and libraries. 

Now, some local governments are restoring police budgets that had been
recently cut, and some departments are receiving additional funding on
the claim that a nationwide increase in crime demands an increased
police presence. In Austin, after vowing to cut funding by $100
million, the city council increased
[[link removed]] the
police budget to a record $442 million. _The New York
Times _recently_ _wrote
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the issue that departments felt pressure to increase police funding,
in some cases offering signing bonuses
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in response to the number of officers who resigned their positions. 

But if the call for defunding police budgets has led to actual
incremental budgetary changes in few cities, what public safety
measures has the call for “defund” helped bring to life? 

One of the biggest victories coming out of the George Floyd uprisings
in 2020 was California’s passage of the C.R.I.S.E.S. Act
[[link removed]]. 

“I would say that the George Floyd uprisings made possible [the]
resourcing of the projects that we, and I know others, have been
working on in Oakland, Sacramento, and beyond,” said James Burch,
the policy director of the Oakland-based coalition, the Anti
Police-Terror Project (APTP).

Cat Brooks, the founder of APTP, drafted the legislation with Los
Angeles assembly member Sydney Kamlager. The C.R.I.S.E.S. Act
establishes a grant pilot program that allocates $10 million in
funding for community-based organizations that are engaged in local
crisis response. That type of investment in community-based crisis
response is rare, Burch says. 

“We think of it as a huge victory because … one of the things we
hear often when we say that we need alternatives to police is, who’s
gonna show up? Tell me a solution,” Burch said. This puts community
organizations in the difficult position of demonstrating the positive
impact of “woefully under-resourced” organizations that need to
make more happen with less. Burch says the funding will “demonstrate
how we keep us safe.”

The funding will support California programs already in the works,
like a mental health crisis response team run by APTP called Mental
Health First Oakland (MH First Oakland). As Prism reported
[[link removed]] in
March, MH First is a hotline Oakland community members can call for
assistance with psychiatric emergencies, substance abuse, and domestic
and intimate partner violence. 

Non-police alternatives are also motivated by the elevation of data
long-known by those most harmed by police. For instance, research
shows
[[link removed]] that
nearly half of the deaths caused by on-duty police have some sort of
disability, with some estimates finding
[[link removed]-] that
those with mental illness are 16 times more likely than those without
mental illness to be killed by police. The Vera Institute of
Justice found that nationwide
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the vast majority of 911 calls to police reported non-violent and
non-property crime related activities that didn’t require police
presence, and it’s these calls that so often lead to police killings
and other forms of violence. Some cities have been taking this data
into account when implementing new public safety programs.

In New York City, the office of mental health-related initiatives
began a pilot program
[[link removed]] that
will dispatch non-police to mental health calls. Portland is currently
operating a street response team
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respond to mental health crises and those experiencing homelessness.
Denver launched STAR, or the Support Team Assisted Response Program,
in June of 2020. It’s a non-police mental health initiative that
overlapped with the timing of the George Floyd uprisings and calls for
defund police. Both Denver and Portland’s programs are based off of
Eugene, Oregon’s CAHOOTS program, which provides non-police crisis
intervention in the city 24/7. 

STAR
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the Denver program, was a product of the Denver Justice Project, which
held community input meetings in the months prior to learn what
residents most wanted to see from non-police public health services.
Roshan Bliss, the former co-chair of the Denver Justice Project,
connects the media coverage and city support for the program to the
George Floyd uprisings and calls for defunding the police. 

“Because of the timing … [and] the way it was talked about …
[it] kind of just blew up,” Bliss said. The timing is also what
allowed for other organizations outside of Denver to connect with STAR
in order to figure out how to implement programs of their own. 

The challenge comes, both Bliss and Burch say, when local governments
and police departments attempt to co-opt the work of grassroots
organizers and community members. Burch says an example of this is
with co-responder
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where police departments are still responsible for dispatching
separate non-police mental health professionals to emergency
situations or require police to accompany volunteers on those calls.

“It is incumbent upon us to make sure that as that happens, we
prevent that process from creating systems that bring us further away
from abolition,” Burch said. “We need to fund those public safety
programs … and we can’t fund them right now because all of the
money is in the police department.”

_Ray Levy-Uyeda is a Bay Area-based freelance writer who covers
justice and activism. Find them on Twitter @raylevyuyeda. _

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