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Calls to ‘defund the police’ are upending FY21 budgets. Here’s how.

In this interactive report, Smart Cities Dive details how each state’s largest city adjusted its public safety funding — if at all — amid demands for reallocations of police budgets.
Brian Tucker/Smart Cities Dive with assets via Getty Images

In the wake of the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, racial justice advocates nationwide have called for a societal change that has upended city budgeting processes: “Defund the police.”

The intention behind this demand varies, yet at its core, the call for police “defunding” aims to reallocate budgetary resources from police departments to community initiatives. And as U.S. cities finalize their operational budgets for FY21 — many of which went into effect on July 1 — they are under the microscope of communities calling for change.

Despite many FY21 budget proposals submitted before these demands, a number of cities responded by holding emergency city hall and council meetings to discuss budgetary adjustments. The presence of the novel coronavirus pandemic compounded these conversations after “blowing massive holes” in city budgets, particularly those that serve populations smaller than 500,000.

In an effort to explore this national conversation, Smart Cities Dive dug into the budgets of the largest city in every state (and the District of Columbia) to compare FY21 police department budgets with those of FY20. Of these 51 cities, 28 began a new fiscal year on July 1, while Kansas City, MO entered a new fiscal year on May 1. Key research highlights include:

  • No city fully matched the defunding or reallocation demands of its respective citizens.
  • 15 of the 29 cities — including most of the smaller cities in this report — saw increased FY21 police budgets, despite calls for reduced budgets.
  • A number of cities including Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Charlotte, NC have created or are considering creating police oversight boards to increase public transparency.

Information regarding the remaining 22 cities will be added to this report at the start of their new fiscal years in October or January. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you: What trends did you glean from this data? What is your city doing to address demands for budgetary adjustments? Drop us a note and let us know.

Cities with Oct. budgets:
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Washington, DC
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Boise, ID
  • Portland, ME
  • Jackson, MS
  • Newark, NJ
  • Fargo, ND
  • Sioux Falls, SD
Cities with Dec./Jan. budgets:
  • Anchorage, AK
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Denver, CO
  • Chicago, IL
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Wichita, KS
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Omaha, NE
  • Columbus, OH
  • Charleston, SC
  • Seattle, WA
  • Milwaukee, WI

Methodology

The budgetary and population data for each city represents data for the city itself, not the metro area or county, with the exception of Honolulu, Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN. These cities’ police budgets are inclusive of regional funding.

Population numbers are based on the most current statistics provided by the city, their budget documentation or the Census Bureau. The numbers have been rounded to the nearest thousand to account for fluctuating population counts between census years.

Budget numbers reflect the cities’ overall operating budgets, as indicated in publicly accessible budget documents and/or as confirmed by city officials. Police budget numbers reflect the general allocation of those funds to the respective city’s police department.

Smart Cities Dive developed this report to reflect the most recent numbers available regarding city police funding and budget allocations. We invite analysis and commentary from readers. If you wish to comment on this data or have any questions for our team, please contact [email protected]

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