Credit: Nayaba Arinde photo

While a review of the police budget for fiscal year 2021 will show that one billion dollars less is recorded in its allocation, that reduction does not lower the number of uniformed officers, plainclothes officers, undercover officers, and detectives on the police force. While every other agency in New York City has a hiring freeze, in fact, the New York Police Department has been approved to bring on 1,163 new recruits. While cries ring out for radical changes to how the NYPD operates in Black and Brown communities, the Department continues under the leadership of Commissioner Shea who says that he does not believe “that there is systemic racism in the NYPD.” The mere shifting of non-police personnel to address the demands for reducing the NYPD budget does not address the demands of the masses.

It is without question that the novel coronavirus pandemic has had a profoundly devastating impact on the lives of everyone across the globe. The loss of life, uncertainty of food access/availability, reduction in income, interruption in how services are rendered, and the upheaval in how we live our daily lives are unparalleled.

Coupled with how this health crisis has exposed racial disparities that have resulted in the disproportionate death rate among Black and Brown people is the daily outcry in the streets against recurring, unwarranted police killing of unarmed, innocent people, witnessed by the world.

The uprisings in the streets echo the reverberating calls for justice. The masses are demanding that police who wantonly kill Black and Brown people be brought to justice. The protesters do not want to continue to pour money into systems of policing that have a documented history of engaging in racist behavior that results in police abuse, misconduct, and murder that are perpetrated on Black and Brown people without appropriate consequences. This is what led to the calls to defund the police.

The $1 billion from the NYPD includes the transfer of salaries of School Safety Agents and Traffic Enforcement Agents from the jurisdiction of the NYPD to other city agencies. A limit on overtime is also reflected in this billion dollars. Additionally, $500 million in capital funds is now designated for broadband to NYCHA developments and construction of community centers. (It should be noted that capital construction projects usually take at least 3-5 years for completion.)

In 2015, I was the only Councilmember to vote against the budget because it called for an increase of 1,200 police officers, which I felt was unnecessary and potentially harmful for our communities. For this budget vote, I am glad that other like-minded colleagues saw the inadequacies of the budget proposals as regards to the NYPD and realized that we need to ensure that we get to the root causes of police misconduct. It transcends “training” or “re-training.” It requires a model of community-based solutions, major infusion of jobs, generous health access and culturally sensitive education. We must remember that the NYPD came into existence in 1845 to act as “slave-catchers” not peace officers. This is why people across the country are calling for the dismantling of police departments and the creation of community-controlled policing.

Remember, revolution starts from the bottom up.

Councilmember Inez Barron

42 Council District: Starrett City, East Brooklyn, Brownsville, East Flatbush, Canarsie