New York City spends more on policing than we do on the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined.
In our streets and neighborhoods right now, we are seeing the consequences of spending more on policing than on healthy neighborhoods, mental health services, affordable housing, and youth programming.
But still, this year, facing a looming $9 billion budget hole, Mayor de Blasio has proposed cutting:
- 100% of summer youth jobs
- 45% of the budget of the Department of Youth and Community Development
- 40% of the capital budget for affordable housing
- over $640 million from the Department of Education (with much of that coming from direct cuts to our schools)
- … but just $23 million to the NYPD, less than 1% of their budget.
So the most effective thing the City Council can do right now to show that we hear the cry of Black New Yorkers against abusive policing, and for a different approach to public safety, is to ensure that New York City’s budget cuts are shared by the NYPD.
Communities United for Police Reform has been leading the call for #NYCBudgetJustice, demanding a hiring freeze on new officers, canceling overtime, and other cuts. If we cannot afford new teachers and counselors to support our students, then we cannot afford new police.
So as the City Council moves to adopt the new City budget by June 30th, I’m making this commitment: I won’t vote for a budget that does not meaningfully cut the NYPD.
Both the NYC budget crisis and the movement for Black lives demand that we think differently about how we spend our collective resources for the kind of public safety that all our communities need:
- For social distancing, so critical to our shared safety right now, what if we had a NYC Public Health Corps who understand the values and speak the languages of our communities, instead of relying on police who are not trained in public health, and whose tools are summonses and arrests?
- To respond to people in mental distress, what if we had an emergency mental health response unit of trained counselors, housed at DOHMH, instead of sending police officers (like the ones who killed Saheed Vassel and Mohammed Bah)?
- In the wake of protests, what if we had invested in community leaders and peacemakers, rather than in the hundreds of cops in the NYPD Strategic Response Unit, so often deployed in riot gear? If we had, they’d be on the ground right now, helping to keep the peace, instead of escalating conflict.
The first step toward that more transformative re-thinking about we achieve real community safety is to pass a budget that does not exempt the NYPD from its share of the significant budget cuts we have to make this year.