NEW YORK (AP) – New York City legislators were expected on Tuesday to transfer $ 1 billion from police to education and social services in the coming year, recognizing the protesters’ demand to cut police spending – but not what activists were looking for.
City council members would debate and vote on the plan on Tuesday evening, with a short time for the fiscal year beginning Wednesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio supports the $ 88.2 billion spending plan and Council President Corey Johnson said he was confident it would pass the council, but he expected many “no” votes from members who wanted to give up more of the police.
The vote comes at an extraordinary time when the country’s largest city is struggling to lose billions of dollars as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, while being pressured to cut back on the police and invest more in community and social programs.
Demonstrators camped outside City Hall, urging the city to cut $ 1 billion from the budget of the New York police amid a nationwide campaign to “defuse” the police – a move caused by outrage over death of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of the police.
The proposal did not help the protesters. Many said they planned to stay outside City Hall indefinitely.
“We are being lit with gas,” said activist Jawanza James Williams. “This move is about so much more than $ 1 billion, and it means they don’t understand what we’re saying.”
Activists say they don’t accept any plan that just shakes dollars around without what they see as a real difference in promoting racial justice and limiting the size and power of the country’s largest police force.
Five years ago, the city council – then largely democratic at the time – insisted on adding nearly 1,300 additional officers to the NYPD. Now, Johnson has said he was wrong to support enlargement, and complained on Tuesday that he had been unable to negotiate greater cuts by the police.
“I am disappointed,” Johnson said at a news conference. “I tried my best.”
Council budget leaders said they should balance calls to reduce police work against residents’ concerns about security.
“Many in my community have supported the police and want police. They just want families and youth to be treated fairly, “said Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, who represents a Bronx district where more than half of the residents are Spanish and about 40% black. Gibson said she met with family members of a Bronx 17-year-old on Tuesday who was shot on Sunday, days after his high school diploma.
“I don’t want anyone to misunderstand and think we don’t care and that we didn’t try our best to reach a place of equality,” while making sure that communities “don’t get left behind with crime, violence, illegal weapons in our communities, no programs, no activities and no hope for a better future, “said Gibson.
Under the plan, cutbacks would result from canceling a nearly 1,200-person police recruiting course for next month – although another class is slated to go ahead in October – and halving overtime, rescheduling officers from administrative functions to patrol and shifting responsibility for crossing guards and reaching homeless by police to other city services.
Police would also surrender control over the security of public schools, which the NYPD took over from the Department of Education in 1998. The city has approximately 5,300 civilian security officers. De Blasio said the details were worked out, but the Education Department would train the agents.
Instead, money would be spent on education, social services in communities severely affected by the virus, and youth youth programs for more than 100,000 people.
Other cuts are being made to the NYPD’s capital budget, including canceling plans to build a new police station in Queens and using the money instead to build a community center.
“We all understand that we need to address today’s concerns that people want to see our society grow,” said the Democrat Blasio at a news conference, vowing that the changes would not endanger public security.
The NYPD budget is now about $ 6 billion, plus a few billion dollars more in shared city spending such as pensions.
The new plan requires an ambitious cut of the police by nearly $ 300 million. The department paid $ 115 million overtime alone during recent protests following Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis.
The focus of the cutbacks is on day-to-day overtime for duties as witnesses in court or completing paperwork.
The discussion is because the city is struggling with a $ 9 billion loss of revenue because of the corona virus.
The city budget was nearly $ 93 billion in June. Before the virus hit, De Blasio proposed a spending plan in excess of $ 95 billion for the fiscal year beginning Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report.
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