When “Defund the Police” became a common refrain, I looked into it. In my moderate sized urban city (roughly 200,000 residents), what did we spend on police? I wanted to do my own research.
The results astounded me.
On publicly released documents that I easily found online with about 3 clicks, I spent about 45 minutes looking over documents. The city’s annual budget is in the ballpark of $110 million. $64 million went to police. That’s 58% of the annual city budget. It didn’t go to city improvements, it didn’t go to health or public works. No, the majority went to one branch of the city.
As I dug deeper, they actually do a more itemized list of their expenses. A huge amount went to wages, which I expected, but I also discovered that the city buys a new armored vehicle (worth over $200,000) every other year. You can’t tell me that the vehicles get ruined that quickly, so why do we need multiples of these in what is generally considered to be a safe city?
After finding this information, I’m fully on board reallocating some of these funds elsewhere. Let’s set up some kind of city department that responds to issues of mental health and social service needs–let’s shrink the size of the police department and focus instead on helping people. I don’t want to go so far as to say we should completely dismantle the police department in my city, but we need to seriously reconsider what “policing” looks like.