TEXAS -- It’s been a common cry across the nation at Black Lives Matter protests. At first, “defund the police” may sound like a call to gut or completely eliminate police departments, and President Donald Trump has seized on it as such.
However, what protesters say they’re calling for is a little bit more nuanced.
Advocates say it’s about reforming police departments and reallocating some of their funding to social services and other groups of people trained to responded to crises, particularly in black and other under-served communities where much of the policing occurs.
According to data compiled by the Urban Institute, U.S. state and local governments spent a combined $115 billion on policing in 2017.
On Sunday, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council indicated they are in favor of disbanding the city’s police department in the wake of the death of George Floyd. What that would entail exactly remains to be seen.
Not surprisingly, talk of budget reductions does not sit well with police unions, with opponents stating it would lead to longer response times to 911 calls, a lag in officers obtaining backup, and rape and murder cases not being investigated.
The Austin Justice Coalition, which has been at the forefront of the movement in the capital city, has distributed a petition calling for the Austin City Council to do the following.
- To demand the resignations of the failed public safety leadership: Chief Brian Manley, his Chief of Staff Troy Gay and the civilian management lead Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano.
- To direct the city manager to decrease the APD budget by $100 million in the fiscal year that starts on October 1, 2020.
- To pledge to continue to significantly decrease the police department’s budget in subsequent years as Austin builds out robust and well-funded alternatives to policing.
- To protect and expand current investments in non-police public health and safety strategies and direct assistance to those most in need due to the pandemic.
- To pursue investments in community-led initiatives to prevent violence, instead of police.
- To do everything in my power to compel APD and all law enforcement agencies to immediately cease enacting violence on community members and hold those that have engaged in violence accountable.
Two members of Austin City Council - Jimmy Flannigan and Greg Casar - last week called on Austin Police Chief Brian Manly to step down in the wake of recent police killings and protesters injured by police officers during Black Lives Matter rallies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.