Activists in Florida are urging their local governments to put the money towards community-based programs for the disadvantaged.
For some time, black and other minority activists have been demanding change in response to the disproportionate rate of police brutality against their communities. In fact, a study of police-civilian interactions across the nation found that the use of police force is more than three times greater for African Americans than for whites.
But the death in Minnesota of George Floyd, a black father of two, at the hands of a white policeman, reignited the resolve of social activists to effect a change.
Claiming that efforts to reform the police have not worked, they say the money spent on policing, which in the U.S. surpasses $100 billion annually, should be put toward community programs like education, childcare, and housing assistance for disadvantaged communities.
The calls to defund the police appear to be working. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised to cut $150 million from a planned increase in the police department’s budget, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city would take funding from the NYPD and use it to fund youth initiatives and other social services.
What About Florida?
Similarly, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Black Lives Matter Alliance Florida is calling on the Ft. Lauderdale City Commission to propose and vote on Tuesday, June 16th, on an immediate 10% cut to the $102 million police department budget and use that money towards community-based solutions to keep black, indigenous, and communities of color-safe.
Activists are also asking the commission to “never again vote to increase police funding or to increase the police department’s budget”, as well as to protect and expand current investment in community led-healthcare and restorative justice, among other strategies.
Defunding the police is not the same as dismantling it, which is what is already being discussed in Minneapolis, where a veto-proof majority of the City Council disagreed with Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposal to make changes without breaking up the force.
Still, although defunding does not mean completely stripping a department of its budget, there are those who claim that defunding is not the solution.
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said in a statement he “supports the need for reform — including funding for public schools, summer programs, and mental health and substance abuse treatment separate from funding for policing — so that officers can focus on the job of policing. That also means funding community policing programs that improve relationships between officers and residents.”
And Donna Shalala, Democratic U.S. Representative for Florida’s 27th congressional district, told The Americano: “We have witnessed thousands of people protesting police brutality and systemic racism because for far too long, we have seen bad cops get away with abusing their power. “[But] we should not cut off all funding for the police, but we must take action to improve policing.”
According to Shalala, the solution is less radical and more measured, with training and transparency as its guiding principles.
“We should take steps to increase transparency, accountability, and training so that officers can better serve their communities – and be punished accordingly if they violate the public’s trust. The Justice and Policing Act of 2020 that was introduced this week — and that I am proud to co-sponsor — supports these principles and is the kind of legislation we need to address these challenges,” said Rep. Shalala.
The Americano’s request for comments from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) elicited this response:
“As a statewide law enforcement agency that routinely investigates high profile cases like officer use of force and public corruption, FDLE has a long-standing tradition of political independence and impartiality; that tradition allows us to offer investigative and forensic findings free of any perceived bias and must be maintained at all costs. As such, we are not able to answer your specific questions.”
In lieu of an interview, it recommended reviewing Florida’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission report on services, policies, and training protocols that reflect the commitment to Florida communities and strengthen community relations.