A year after cities across the United States caved to demands to defund the police, multiple regions are now increasing – or considering increasing – their police budgets in the midst of rising crime.
Los Angeles slashed its police budget by $150 million over the summer last year, totaling roughly 8 percent of the department’s budget. Last week, the city agreed to increase the budget in order to hire around 250 new officers, the New York Times reported, almost completely restoring the hefty cuts made in 2020. Los Angeles had just 9,800 sworn officers after the cuts, the lowest number since 2008.
The changes come as the city is seeing significant jumps in violent crime, including a 31 percent increase in murders alone this year, according to department data.
“We’ve lost more than a decade of progress,” Chief Michel Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department said, noting dropping crime rates prior to the pandemic.
“I won’t argue that there is substandard housing, education, broken families, substance abuse, the systems that are racist and have systemic issues that have gone on for generations,” he said, referring to protesters’ demands. “But the fix of that is not to eliminate policing.”
Chief Moore went on to note that that officers are “emotionally…beat up” and “feel like they have been vilified and victimized for the wrongful criminal acts of a few.”
More than 2,000 miles east of LA, Baltimore is considering similar changes after cutting its police budget last year. Mayor Brandon Scott recently proposed increasing police spending to $555 million for fiscal year 2021 beginning July 1 – totaling $6 million more than was cut from the police budget in 2020, The Baltimore Sun reported.
The city’s police commissioner Michael Harrison defended the proposed budget, calling it “fixed costs” not operational cost increases.
“This is a budget that allows me to deploy our resources across the city, based on the manpower we have and the demands of our city and the needs of our community,” Harrison said. “It does require me to be fiscally responsible and make smart management decisions on how, when and where to deploy.”
Critics of the mayor’s budget proposal said they plan to testify against the spending increase during the council’s Taxpayers’ Night.
“We do appreciate his alignment and values, but his actions have to back it up,” said Rob Ferrell, senior organizer with the police-reform group Organizing Black. “The budget is a moral document, and what it says is … ‘We’re not investing in the overall health and wellness of our communities.’”