New York City to cut police budget, but some say it's not enough

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has agreed with the City Council to slash the New York Police Department's spending in the 2021 fiscal year's budget, which is due to be passed on Tuesday, but some lawmakers said it fell short of a $1 billion cut they had demanded.

Nearly $484 million will be cut from the NYPD's budget, while another $354 million will be transferred to other city agencies, with the mayor shifting oversight of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education, the City Council said.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputed de Blasio's characterization that $1 billion was being "shifted away" from the NYPD budget.

"This isn't a billion dollars, and I'm not going to pretend that it is," he told reporters on Tuesday, saying the mayor and some lawmakers had refused to budge on significant reductions in the number of police officers. "It's important to be honest."

The budget negotiations were shaped by two crises that have shaken the city.

The coronavirus pandemic created a $9 billion shortfall in revenue, leading to deep cuts across city agencies, with the mayor warning he may have to lay off 22,000 municipal workers.

And a month of nationwide protests against police violence gave new political heft to calls to defund police departments, forcing de Blasio to shift from his original April proposal of cutting NYPD funding by less than 1% while slashing youth services. Thousands of protesters began camping outside City Hall last week in what they called an occupation, demanding that $1 billion be redirected from the NYPD to other community and social services.

"It's time to do the work of reform, to think deeply about where our police have to be in the future," de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday.

The NYPD's $6 billion operating budget will be cut in part through the cancellation of the July class of more than 1,000 new recruits, though another class would still continue as planned in October. The City Council said a major part of the cut would come from an effort to reduce overtime pay by $352 million, although previous efforts to curb NYPD overtime have not always been successful.

De Blasio said he would also restore some summer youth programs he had originally canceled.

Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of 200 community groups which originally called for a $1 billion cut to the NYPD's budget and have criticized police officers patrolling public schools, said their demands were still not being met.

"Mayor de Blasio and Speaker Johnson are using funny math and budget tricks to try to mislead New Yorkers," Anthonine Pierre, a spokesperson for the coalition, said in a statement. "Moving police from the NYPD to other agencies does nothing to reduce police violence."

New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also criticized the proposed budget, saying he would invoke an obscure provision in the City's Charter and refuse to sign tax warrants in order to stop it being deployed in the absence of what he called "a commitment to true school safety reform."

The total city budget comes to $88.1 billion, de Blasio said, down from $95.3 billion he had proposed earlier in the year.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Aurora Ellis)

06/30/2020 21:58

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