After more than a week of protests against police violence across the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed on Sunday to significantly slash the NYPD’s budget or “#DefundNYPD,” as the popular hashtag exclaims.

But what exactly does “defunding the police” mean in New York City? It does not necessarily mean disbanding the entire police department (although that’s exactly what the city of Minneapolis has agreed to do after one of its officers killed George Floyd).

Instead, defunding the NYPD will most likely mean making significant cuts to the department’s budget and redirecting those funds to social programs, which may have the added benefit of improving quality of life and reducing poverty, and in turn, crime.

With a budget of more than $11 billion, when counting fringe expenses such as pensions, precincts, and legal settlements, the NYPD’s budget is about ten times that of the nation’s second most expensive police department, the LAPD, which costs the city of Los Angeles roughly $1.73 billion annually.

The NYPD’s budget is about ten times that of the nation’s second most expensive police department, the LAPD

Due in part to the coronavirus crisis, the push to redirect spending away from the NYPD and toward social programs is gaining support among high-level city officials, who project a nearly $7.4 billion loss in tax revenue that will touch nearly every area of the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021, from bike lanes and buses, to the beloved Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

Comptroller Scott Stringer proposed slashing the police department’s budget by $1.1 billion over the next four years through a hiring freeze, cuts to overtime, and reducing the NYPD’s technology and vehicle budget by $17 million.

A June 3 letter signed by nearly one thousand current and former de Blasio administration staffers called on the mayor to cut $1 billion in funding from the NYPD this year, and to redirect the money to housing and rental relief, food assistance, and healthcare.

Brooklyn Borough President and former NYPD Captain Eric Adams has joined other pols in calling for the “civilianization” of the NYPD, which would entail placing more non-officers in clerical roles — a move that could save the city an estimated $30 million a year.

A growing number of Brooklyn’s city councilmembers who will by June 30 determine the city’s budget, along with their colleagues from other boroughs and the mayor, have also joined the defunding call. And while many agree NYPD cuts are needed, ideas about where and by how much to cut, and how to redirect the money, vary widely.

City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, who represents parts of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Ridgewood, released a statement calling for a $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s budget by next year, along with a plan to accomplish those cuts by using the recent repeal of Law 50-a to identify officers with the worst disciplinary records and fire them.

“We want to get rid of bad cops, but following the typical pattern of laying off the most recent hires will not assist in achieving our goals. We must institute policies that rid the department of its worst actors,” Reynoso said.

A spokesperson for Reynoso explained that the councilmember does not yet have specific agencies or programs where he would like to redirect the $1 billion from the NYPD, but in general would like to see the funds used for “healthcare, education, and youth services.”

Brooklyn City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, who represents portions of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill-Brownsville, East Flatbush, Crown Heights, said she’d like to “relieve police of non-police responsibility” like traffic enforcement and school safety, and redirect the resources spent on some NYPD units to Crisis Management Systems like the Cure Violence program.

“The administration proudly credits CMS with the 17 percent reduction in crime over three years. Imagine what they could do with more money,” Ampry-Samuel said through a spokesperson.

Brooklyn City Councilmember Farah Louis, whose district includes East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park and Midwood, supports cutting the NYPD’s budget by at least $1 billion this year. She wants to redirect the funds to Crisis Management Systems, along with expanding internet access, SYEP, repairing and upgrading schools, combatting homelessness, and aiding small businesses.

Louis said that, while the proposal to cut the NYPD budget by $1.1 billion over four years is a step in the right direction, it “will not occur in time to meet the more immediate challenges and needs facing communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 and police brutality.”

City Councilmember Inez Barron, whose district includes East New York, said through a spokesperson she’d like to reduce the NYPD’s budget “significantly” and redirect the funds to youth services, mental health services, and higher education. She has not committed to a specific dollar figure by which she’d like to see the budget reduced.

Robert Cornegy, the city councilmember representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and Northern Crown Heights, tweeted his support for defunding the NYPD by $1 billion next year on Friday, and said he’d like to invest in community-based organizations that serve young people and seniors. Cornegy did not say what aspects of the police budget he’d like to cut.

Brooklyn City Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo and Justin Brannan have indicated general support for reducing NYPD funding, but have not said where they would like to cut the budget, by how much, or what programs they’d prefer to fund instead.

Councilmembers Kalman Yeger, Eugene Mathieu, Chaim Deutsch, and Alan Maisel have not taken a public stance, and did not respond to requests for comment.

Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend, Sea Gate, said, “I want to make it clear that I support significant cuts to NYPD and to restore funding to SYEP and school budgets to keep social workers, counselors, teachers, nurses and cleaners in our city’s schools.”

City Councilmember Brad Lander said in a statement he would fight for $1 billion in NYPD cuts this year and wouldn’t vote for a budget that didn’t cut the department’s budget significantly. He indicated he’d like to achieve the cuts by shrinking the scope of policing.

“Emergency mental health responders, not armed police, should be the ones to respond to people in distress,” he said. “Speed cameras that don’t racially profile or escalate confrontations should do traffic enforcement. Social workers and nurses should be in the halls of our schools providing support and care, rather than uniformed officers.”

*Update 6/12 7:35pm: This article has been updated to include the statement shared by Councilmember Mark Treyger.

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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

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