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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 and Kendall Davis 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, they are under the microscope of communities calling for change.

Many FY21 budget proposals were submitted before these demands, but 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 began digging through the budgets of each state’s largest city (and the District of Columbia) in July to compare FY21 police department budgets with those of FY20. Key research highlights as of Oct. 7 include:

  • No city fully matched the defunding or reallocation demands of its respective citizens.
  • 17 of the 33 cities analyzed to date — including most of the smaller cities in this report — saw increased FY21 police budgets, despite calls for reduced budgets. (This figure does not account for the City of Jackson, MS.)
  • A number of cities are pushing for additional police oversight, with Portland, OR and Philadelphia residents to soon vote on creating such measures at the polls.

Information regarding the remaining 17 cities will be added to this report following the start of their new fiscal years in 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:
Updated Oct. 7, 2020
  • Birmingham, AL
  • Boise, ID
  • Jackson, MS
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Portland, ME
  • Washington, DC
Cities with Jan. budgets:
  • Albuquerque, NM* (rollover)
  • Anchorage, AK
  • Charleston, SC
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Denver, CO
  • Fargo, ND
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Little Rock, AR
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Newark, NJ
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Omaha, NE
  • Seattle, WA
  • Sioux Falls, SD
  • Wichita, KS

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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