New York cuts police budget amid 'defund' calls

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New York cuts police budget amid 'defund' calls

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

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NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — New York City lawmakers have approved a disputed budget that purports to slash US$1 billion from the NYPD's annual budget as calls by anti-racism protesters to defund law enforcement sweep the United States.

"Defund the police" has become a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that erupted following the killing in custody of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Protesters have camped outside New York's city hall the past week demanding that money be shifted from America's largest police force to social services to help fight racial injustice.

Late Tuesday, members of New York's city council approved the government's budget for the new fiscal year starting Wednesday that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says cuts the NYPD's operating budget from about US$6 billion to roughly US$5 billion.

The cuts include scrapping the planned hiring of about 1,160 new police officers, as well as reducing overtime costs and redeploying administrative staff.

But some council members accused the government of just moving money around, arguing that around US$400 million of the cuts come from shifting responsiblity for protecting public schools from the police to the education department.

Brooklyn councillor Brad Lander said he was voting no to the budget because it did not propose "real, meaningful cuts," including a hiring freeze on cops.

"The budget being voted on tonight does NOT cut US$1B from the NYPD," he tweeted.

The NYPD has approximately 36,000 police officers, more than any other force in the United States.

It faces criticism for using force against largely peaceful protesters who demonstrated against the death of Floyd on May 25. De Blasio defended the heavy-handed tactics.

Activists outside city hall said they did not believe the cuts were genuine.

"I feel like this City Council is making a mockery of our demands. They say that they're going to defund the police but they're just finding sneakier ways to fund them," 17-year-old Mary-Kate Mahaney, told AFP.

The annual budget for New York has been slashed from US$93 billion last year to US$88 billion due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has crippled the Big Apple's economy.

De Blasio recently estimated that the epidemic, which has killed approximately 22,000 NYC residents, has cost the city US$9 billion in lost revenues.

The mayor says that another US$1 billion in labour savings needs to be found in the budget or 22,000 employees face being laid off in the fall.

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