New York City has voted to slash $1billion from the NYPD budget, following weeks of protests and fraught negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio – as some lawmakers complain it falls short of what activists demanded.
The austere, coronavirus-era budget tightens spending across city agencies, including a cut of nearly $484million from the NYPD’s $6billion operating budget if the department can adhere to new overtime limits, the city council said.
Another $354million will be transferred to other services, most prominently in the mayor’s agreeing to shift oversight of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education.
After many hours of delays, a majority of 32 lawmakers voted via teleconference to pass the budget minutes shy of the midnight deadline, and 17 voted against it.
The vote came at an extraordinary moment when the Big Apple is grappling with a $9billion revenue loss due to the coronavirus pandemic while facing pressure to cut back on policing.
Unrest continues: Protesters chanted slogans during a protest to defund the NYPD in a place they are calling the ‘City Hall Autonomous Zone’, ahead of Tuesday’s vote
The vote comes following weeks of protests and fraught negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio as New York City grapples with a $9billion revenue loss due to the coronavirus pandemic
Protesters locked arms outside City Hall on Tuesday as lawmakers debated the city budget on policing amid mounting pressure from its residents
A protester climbs a statue outside Surrogate’s Court near an encampment outside City Hall on Tuesday
Protesters have been camped outside City Hall, demanding the city slash $1billion from the department’s budget amid a nationwide campaign to ‘defund’ the police – a movement sparked by the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of cops.
Demonstrations continued for a seventh day on Tuesday with thousands gathering outside what they are calling the ‘City Hall Autonomous Zone’, ahead of the vote.
Video footage shared on social media showed the moment a violent clash broke out between cops and protesters as officers attempted to control the crowds by pushing them towards the sidewalk with their batons.
In a clip taken four hours before the vote, officers are seen yelling at protesters to step back while one protester, who is out of frame, fires back at the cops saying they are ‘not welcome here’ and urging them to leave.
‘You are dangerous and violent and you are hurting us!’ the female protester shouts.
On early Wednesday morning, critics of the deal said the billion dollar cut wasn’t a billion dollar cut at all. Some of the funding reduction, they noted, was merely shifting police functions and they doubted the promised reduction in overtime would ever happen.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputed de Blasio’s characterization that $1billion was being ‘shifted away’ from the NYPD budget, saying the mayor and some council members refused to agree to a police hiring freeze.
‘I know that there are many who are disappointed,’ he said before the vote. ‘I am disappointed as well. I wanted us to go deeper.’
Chaos: Video footage shared on social media showed the moment a violent clash broke out between cops and protesters as officers attempted to control the crowds by pushing them towards the sidewalk with their batons
Violence breaks out: Some protesters were seen pushing back as cops shoved them with their nightsticks
The violent clash came as tensions bo
He nonetheless urged members to pass the budget: ‘Today’s budget agreement is one of necessity,’ he said.
The proposal also did little to assuage the demonstrators, with many saying they intended to stay outside City Hall indefinitely.
‘We are being gaslit,’ said activist Jawanza James Williams. ‘This movement is about so much more than the $1 billion, and this means they don’t understand what we’re saying.’
Activists say the budget needs to make a substantial, not symbolic, difference in advancing racial justice and curbing the size and power of the nation’s largest police force.
Five years ago, the City Council – then as now, overwhelmingly Democratic – added nearly 1,300 additional officers to the NYPD. Now, Johnson has said he was wrong to support the expansion.
Council budget leaders said they needed to balance calls to cut policing with residents’ concerns about safety.
‘Many in my community have supported police and want police. They just want families and young people to be treated fairly,’ said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who represents a Bronx district where over half of residents are Hispanic and about 40 per cent are black.
Gibson said she’d met Tuesday with relatives of a Bronx 17-year-old who was shot and killed Sunday, days after his high school graduation.
The proposal did little to assuage the demonstrators, with many saying they intended to stay outside City Hall indefinitely
A female protester wearing a protective masks sits near City Hall late Tuesday as a police officer looks on
A female protester disables a police camera during a protest to defund the police
‘I don’t want anyone to misunderstand and think that we don´t care and that we have not been working our behinds off to get to a place of equity,’ while ensuring communities ‘are not left behind with crime, violence, illegal guns in our communities, no programs, no activities, and no hope for a better tomorrow,’ Gibson said.
But some other members said the budget proposal didn’t dig deep enough into police spending. Councilman Brad Lander, who voted no, called it ‘more budget-dancing than meaningful reductions.’
Cuts would come from canceling a nearly 1,200-person police recruiting class set for next month – though another class in October is scheduled to go forward – as well as halving overtime spending, redeploying officers from administrative functions to patrol and ending police responsibility for school crossing guards and homeless outreach.
The police department also would give up control over public school security, which the NYPD took over from the Department of Education in 1998. The city has about 5,300 civilian school safety agents. De Blasio said details were being worked out, but the Education Department would train the agents.
Money would go instead to education, social services in communities hit hard by the virus, and summer youth programs for over 100,000 people.
Other cuts are being made to the NYPD’s capital budget, including cancelling plans to build a new police precinct in Queens and instead using the money to build a community center.
‘We all understand that we have to answer the concerns of this moment, that people want to see our society progress,’ de Blasio, a Democrat, said at a news conference. He vowed the changes would not compromise public safety.
Police officials didn’t comment Tuesday. Commissioner Dermot Shea has said he was open to giving up school safety and other cuts, as long as the amount of officers on patrol doesn´t shrink.
The NYPD budget is now around $6billion, plus several billion dollars more in shared city expenses such as pensions.
The new plan calls for an ambitious, nearly $300million cut in police overtime. The department paid out $115million in overtime just during recent protests over Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis.
The city budget totaled nearly $93billion when passed last June. Before the virus hit, de Blasio proposed a more than $95billion spending plan for the budget year that starts Wednesday.