14 JULY 9, 2020 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
Defunding the police means prioritizing
public services, investing in communities
BY ANGÉLICA ACEVEDO
The months-long protests over police brutality
and systemic racism has mobilized hundreds of
thousands of New Yorkers — and one of the main
calls coming from community members and
elected offi cials is to “defund the police.” But what
does that mean?
Although it might be a confusing statement at
fi rst, advocates say the calls to defund the police
translate to directly investing in communities and
prioritizing social services over a criminal justice
system that perpetuates the disproportionate
abuse of Black, Brown, immigrant and minority
The goal is to provide people with the basic
resources they need to live better lives, such
as inclusive education, aff ordable housing and
accessible health care — services many say are
desperately needed now more than ever due to
“We need to direct cost-savings towards the Department
of Youth and Community Development,
education and adult literacy, housing, housing
the homeless, and social services that keep our
communities safe and healthy,” Make the Road NY
wrote in their call to defund the police and have
police free schools.
Some may argue those social services already exist
and are adequate, but if that were the case — why
are schools overcrowded? Why is there a housing
crisis while there are more than 90,000 New Yorkers
who are homeless? Why was the health and
hospital system overburdened once COVID-19 hit,
leaving low-income and minority neighborhoods
to suff er the worst of it?
When it comes down to city and state budget negotiations,
oft entimes it’s social services working
to address those issues that either don’t get a budget
increase or are among the fi rst to get cut.
In the time of the pandemic, which Mayor Bill de
Blasio said has left the city with a $9 billion defi cit,
there have already been cuts to programs that have
a positive impact on the city’s youth — namely, the
suspension of the Summer Youth Employment
The program was one of the fi rst to go due to
COVID-19 fears and the budget crisis, but community
members and City Council members believe
it was a mistake.
Councilman Donovan Richards, who’s the chair
of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, addressed
the issue during a rally for the repeal of
50-A on June 4.
“The mayor has the gall to want to cut the Department
of Youth and Community Development’s budget
by 48 percent, the mayor proposed to cut the
Summer Youth Employment program,“ Richards
said. “If you’re a mayor who’s standing for justice
and inequality … you would only cut one percent
of the NYPD’s budget. Yet, the mayor proposed
to graduate a new police class at the cost of $25
According to Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza,
the DOE’s budget was also facing hundreds
of millions in budget cuts.
The DOE planned to cut the “Single Shepherd”
program, which placed 130 counselors and social
Photo by Dean Moses
workers in historically underserved neighborhoods
in the Bronx and Brooklyn, according to the
New York Daily News.
During a Tuesday, June 30, press briefi ng, de
Blasio said the 2021 budget will restore the DOE’s
budget and fund the “Single Shepherd” program.
Activists and elected offi cials are calling for
priorities to shift moving forward.
NYPD AMONG TOP THREE CITY
AGENCIES WITH LARGEST BUDGET
Expenses for the NYPD will total almost $11 billion
in 2020, comprised of the NYPD’s nearly $6
billion operating budget and $5.3 billion of costs
“centrally allocated” of city funds, including $2.3
billion for fringe benefi ts, $2.8 billion for pensions,
and $215 million for debt service, according to the
Citizens Budget Commission.
The NYPD’s centrally allocated costs are signifi -
cantly high since uniformed health insurance and
pension benefi ts are “more generous than for other
city employees,” according to the CBC.
The NYPD is among the top three city agencies
with the largest operating budgets, aft er the Departments
of Education (DOE) and Social Services
(DSS). The NYPD’s budget, including the centrally
allocated expenses, accounts for 11 percent of the
city’s current $98 billion budget.
In April, while the mayor’s executive budget for
2021 showed signifi cant cuts to other sectors, the
NYPD’s budget was “mostly left intact,” according
to Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
The City Comptroller’s offi ce recommended the
city cut $1 billion over four years, with $265 million
in cuts annually by reducing uniformed headcount
through attrition, scaling back overtime and trimming
Other Than Personnel Services.
“Breaking down structural racism in New York
City will require long-term, lasting change — and
that must include reducing the NYPD’s budget,”
Comptroller Scott Stringer said. “If our budget is
a refl ection of our values, it is unconscionable that
services for Black and Brown New Yorkers are on
the chopping block while the NYPD’s budget remains
almost entirely untouched.”
FIRST STEPS TO CHANGE POLICING
The City Council committed to cutting $1 billion
from the NYPD’s 2020-21 budget as a response to
the marches and demonstrations across New York
City, which were sparked by the police killing of
Minneapolis’ George Floyd, Louisville’s Breonna
Taylor and countless other Black people in the
As a result of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations
— some of which have been met with police
violence and a questionable curfew instated by the
city earlier in the month — the city banned the use
of chokeholds and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into
law a repeal of 50-A to grant more transparency
of the NYPD.
But these are just some steps that are part of a
bigger movement to fundamentally change the way
policing works, not only in the city but the whole
“It’s not just about police reform; it’s about educational
reform, mental health reform, social service
reform. It’s about health care reform and environmental
justice reform,” said Jamaell Henderson, a
professor at City University and from the CUNY
Rising Alliance, at a press briefi ng on the steps of
Tweed Courthouse on Sunday, June 28.
Some ideas to immediately address those reforms
include having professionals trained in mental
health, substance and/or domestic abuse deal with
people who need intervention rather than police —
as people with untreated mental illness are 16 times
more likely to be killed during a police encounter,
according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.
Advocates have also called for investment in
drug rehabilitation rather than punishment as
another way to address those underlying needs.
The months-long demonstrations have culminated
with a sit-in at City Hall, or Occupy City Hall,
spearheaded by VOCAL-NY, to demand the city
follow through with at least a $1 billion cut of the
On June 30, their demonstrators were met
with police in riot gear who detained some of the