Are Cities Actually Defunding the Police?

CityLab Daily

Stalled: Over the last decade, police budgets have been on an upward trajectory along with their cities' total spending. Then came the killing of George Floyd, followed by months of protests demanding that municipalities defund the police — and it seemed that governments were listening. Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas, announced cuts of up to $1 billion.

But a deeper look at local budgets for fiscal year 2021 reveals that there hasn't been meaningful change in many of the biggest U.S. cities. In fact, a CityLab analysis of 34 of the 50 largest cities found that more than half actually increased spending or kept it unchanged as a percentage of their discretionary spending. The majority will spend more than a quarter of their general budget on police, according to Sarah Holder, Fola Akinnibi and Christopher Cannon. "We have not defunded anything," said one activist in Minneapolis. But change could still come as city councils begin seeing record participation among residents in the budget process. Today on CityLab: America's Big Cities Aren't Defunding the Police

-Linda Poon

More on CityLab

The Iconic Home Designs That Define Our Global Cities
To understand a city, start with the foundation. Floor plans from homes around the world explain how the way we live has shaped the design and architecture of urban neighborhoods — and vice versa.
There's a Movement to Defund School Police, Too
Fueled by recent protests, some school districts are ending contracts with local law enforcement and instead turning to private security officers and counselors.
A Virginia City's Playbook for Urban Renewal: Move Out the Poor
Norfolk is using federal tax breaks to plow under its historically Black neighborhoods.

What we're reading

  • Rural hospitals teeter on financial cliff as Covid-19 Medicare loans come due (NPR)
  • Armed and Black: How a group of men licensed to carry guns say they are seeking racial justice (Los Angeles Times)
  • Deportation nation (New York Review of Books)
  • What it's like fighting for the right to vote in Florida as an ex-felon (Vox)
  • "Colored lives matter": a South African police shooting like no other (New York Times)
  • What the photos of wildfires and smoke don't show you (ProPublica)


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