As some major U.S. cities have seen more than double the number of murders so far this year compared to last, the efforts to cut police budgets have continued by some community groups and local governments struggling to make ends meet.
While the number of murders and shootings is constantly changing, these cities and a handful of others have emerged as those that are struggling with an increase in violent crime rates.
At the same time, many have also been hit with budget cuts, or calls for such actions to be taken, in the wake of financial devastation related to the novel coronavirus and demonstrations protesting systemic racism and police brutality.
The Wisconsin city saw a 112% increase in murders from Jan. 1 to Aug. 17 compared with the same time in 2019, statistics obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel show. The city saw 106 murders over the course of the more than eight-month period, compared with the 50 reported during the same time in 2019, the outlet reported.
The public has reportedly recently demanded the Milwaukee Police Department budget be defunded. So far, no cuts have been announced; nonetheless, Wisconsin Policy Forum revealed in mid-July that such action would likely be inevitable.
On July 17, WPF President Rob Henken said MPD’s police budget would likely have been impacted even without the public pressure for changes.
“The city’s ability to weather fiscal challenges has withered in recent years, as it has grappled with difficult budgets year after year,” Henken said, according to the Sentinel Journal. “So, when you combine these factors with the hits that the city is absorbing from the pandemic … it’s difficult to see how police cuts can be avoided in 2021 given that MPD comprises such a large share of the city budget.”
Minneapolis saw a 96% increase in homicides since the beginning of the year until Aug. 17. Forty-seven murders were reported during that time this year, compared with the 24 reported during the same period in 2019, according to data compiled from the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Minnesotan city has made headlines over the past several months starting on May 25, with the police-involved death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old Black man died after a white police officer held his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes – despite Floyd’s several shouts that he could not breathe, video shows.
The majority of Minneapolis City Council Members said in June that they supported disbanding the police department. But on Aug. 5, a Minneapolis commission said it would need more time to review the city council-proposed amendment to dismantle the police department, citing legal concerns and missing information. The commission’s decision ended the possibility for the amendment to be on the November ballot.
On Aug. 14, Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, said his office plans to keep 100 police officer jobs open next year as part of a hiring freeze to help manage the 2021 budget.
Frey said the city projects about 100 officers, from a force of more than 800, will have left the department by the end of the year.
NEW YORK CITY
The New York Police Department’s most recently available crime statistics show an 85% increase in shooting victims, from 551 in 2019 to 1017 in 2020 as of Aug. 9. As for shooting incidents themselves, the NYPD saw a 79% increase as of Aug. 9, from 466 in 2019 to 833 this year, statistics show.
There have been 244 murders reported since that same date in 2020, which is 29% higher than the same time in 2019.
As for the police budget, New York City Council voted at the end of June to approve nearly $1 billion in budget cuts to the NYPD. The new plan calls for nearly $300 million to be cut in police overtime. The department paid out $115 million in overtime during recent protests over Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis.
The approved cuts to the NYPD would come from canceling a nearly 1,200-person police recruiting class set for next month — though another class in October is scheduled to go forward — as well as halving overtime spending, redeploying officers from administrative functions to patrol and ending police responsibility for school crossing guards and homeless outreach.
Prior to the budget cuts, the NYPD budget was nearly $6 billion, plus several billion dollars more in shared city expenses such as pensions.
The number of shootings year-to-date as of Aug. 9 jumped from 1,273 in 2019 to 1,884 in 2020, a 48% increase, data show.
No budget has been approved yet, but the Cook County Board of Commissioners has pledged to reallocate money from police, according to the Chicago Tribune. Public safety currently makes up more than 20% of the county’s $6.2 billion budget, the outlet reported.
City council members in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously on Aug. 13 to cut about one-third of next year’s $434 million police budget, meaning just over $150 million will be redirected to social services in the 2021 fiscal budget, which starts Oct 1.
The cuts will eliminate about 150 open jobs, which would put staffing levels the same as in 2015, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.
The priority would be to keep the patrol unit – which responds to 911 calls – fully staffed. He said the department plans to allocate officers accordingly.
Three cadet classes also will be delayed, Manley said, and the department is coming up with alternative plans until cadets can begin their training. Those will include temporary jobs in the police department that will give them a salary until they can start as cadets.
The Texas city also reported one of the highest murder surges out of U.S. big cities, with a 64% increase in homicides between the beginning of the year and June 30, compared with the 14 recorded in 2019, according to Austin PD.
Murders in Denver from Jan. 1 through the end of July increased 53% from the same time last year, with 52 in 2020 compared to 34 in 2019, police records show.
The city’s Department of Public Safety, which also encompasses the fire, sheriff and police departments, announced just last week it would be cutting the budgets for all four agencies by a collective 5%, or $30.4 million, with more to come, ColoradoPolitics.com reported.
The Denver Police Department reportedly makes up 43% of DPS’ $588 million budget. The police department has already cut $10.9 million from its $254.2 million budget, according to the report.
The number of shootings reported as of Aug. 16 had jumped by 45% from 1,377 in 2019 to 1,995 in 2020, while the number of victims was up 36% from 884 to 1,203, according to Philadelphia Police Department data.
The Pennsylvania city’s police department’s 2021 budget was slashed by $33 million, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The cuts included the elimination of additional funds that totaled $19 million and a plan to shift the certain roles to jobs that fall under the city’s Managing Director’s Office, the outlet reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.