Even as many protesters — and even some politicians — say they want “defund the police,” officials in San Diego, California, are pushing back by approving a plan to expand its police department’s budget.
According to the Washington Examiner, city council members voted 8–1 to expand the law enforcement budget by $27 million to a total of $566 million for 2021.
The vote comes amid widespread civil unrest and protests against police misconduct, resulting in a backlash against city leaders for ignoring calls to reallocate police funding. Officials received a total of roughly 4,400 emails and phone calls, primarily advocating for a reduction in the city’s law enforcement budget, according to Fox Business.
“Terrorizing black people”
Among the activists were some who expressed their opinion with foul language and described the proposed budget as racist, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Local resident Breana Clark called on leaders to defund what she described as a “city-sanctioned militia that is terrorizing black people” and focus more on “resources in our communities.”
Others, however, supported the move. Audrey Churchward said the agency needs some level of reform, but that it is only “the minority” who want to see the department defunded.
“Better screening, better training — but don’t defund them,” she argued, according to the Examiner. “I am thankful for our police. A majority of them have done more good than evil.”
“It has my full support”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, for his part, has vowed to fight for “systemic change” and has been an advocate for the establishment of an Office of Race and Equity, which was proposed by council member Monica Montgomery.
“To end racism, we need systemic change,” Faulconer said, according to the Union-Tribune. “This office, I believe, will be a step in that direction. It has my full support.”
In San Diego, that change does not include deep cuts to the city’s police department. Montgomery was among those in the majority who voted in support of the expanded budget.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, has agreed to slash that city’s police budget by about $150 million. Similar reactions are being reported in other states, including plans to disband the police department in Minneapolis, and a group of Seattle protesters occupying a part of the downtown area is making its own demands.
Those advocating for reduced budgets say a protest chant of “defund the police” lacks important context. Regardless of the nuance, San Diego leaders have made it clear this is the time to support its law enforcement community, not starve cops of critical resources.