Activists Want More Police Cuts In Mayor’s Final Budget Proposal
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Photo by Shalina Chatlani
Activists who have been calling for cuts to the San Diego Police Department budget were disappointed by Mayor Todd Gloria's latest spending plan, which keeps in place the $19 million increase in police spending he originally proposed last month.
Most of the police budget increase is due to costs the mayor has little to no control over, such as legally required pension payments or rising utility bills at police stations. Still, activists had hoped Gloria would move faster on his pledge to shift some responsibilities, such as responding to homelessness or mental health crises, from armed police officers to civilian first responders.
Gloria has sought to undercut criticism from racial justice activists by proposing a slate of reforms to police policies, with the goal of correcting well documented disparities in how SDPD officers treat Black and Latino residents compared to whites. Those include still unspecified limits on the use of "pretext stops," when an officer stops someone for a minor violation like a broken tail light with the intent to search for evidence of a larger crime.
But Keara Piña, research and policy advocate at the progressive think tank Center on Policy Initiatives, said those proposals do not go far enough.
"None of those are reflected in the proposed budget," Piña said. "So, I think to community members who have been advocating for this for a really long time, not seeing that funding behind that is disappointing."
A report on Gloria's proposed budget from the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst noted that a majority of City Council members have called for "the reallocation of Police Department funding and the reassignment of services currently being conducted by law enforcement." But the report found this request was only partially met, and that the budget makes no effort to reassign duties currently performed by police officers to other departments.
Last year hundreds of activists urged the City Council to cut police spending and reinvest it into other priorities such as affordable housing, public transit and libraries. The final budget vote took place just two weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a police officer sparked mass protests against police brutality and racially biased policing.
It's unclear whether this year's final budget vote will draw the same level of attention from activists. Supporters of the police have begun raising their voices as well, with several telling the council during budget hearings earlier this month that cuts to the police department would jeopardize public safety.
For Darwin Fishman, a San Diego State professor and activist with the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego, Gloria has yet to prove he's as progressive on police issues as he portrayed himself to be during last year's mayoral campaign.
"Quite often he'd say the right things at the right time, but it's just a real issue about believability," Fishman said. "To the extent that he's going to do anything, it's going to have to be dragged screaming and kicking."
The City Council is scheduled to discuss Gloria's revisions to his proposed budget on Thursday. It faces a June 15 deadline for approving a final budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
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