One of the main demands to come out of the nationwide George Floyd protests is for cities to defund police. That doesn’t mean completely defunding police departments but, rather, allocating some of their budgets to other initiatives that provide poor and minority communities with more than a police presence.
In a clear-cut signal that the voice of protesters is being heard, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced he will direct $250 million to youth jobs, health initiatives, and “peace centers” to heal trauma and will allow those who have suffered discrimination to collect damages. As much as $150 million is expected to come from the Los Angeles Police Department.
This is a huge change of tack from the city. It has been an article of faith in Los Angeles politics that if you build the Police Department and its budget, and you will build a stronger, safer city. Now LA is taking a different course, and it’s catching attention nationally.
“I got calls from mayors around the country, some of them saying, ‘I’m so excited,’ and other ones saying, ‘What the hell did you do? Now I gotta shift money,'” Garcetti told political, religious, and community leaders Thursday at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Los Angeles. “That’s exactly the point. It starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be, or we’re going to continue being the killers that we are.”
The plan to cut the police and other departments to fund new social service programs arose only in recent days, so details remained scarce. But the idea is that the new funds would specifically address “structural racism” against black people. He said the money will be taken from other sources “to put it into health, to put it into hope, to put it into housing, and to put it into healing”.