After weeks of protests against police brutality and racial injustice and hours of marching on Tuesday, demonstrators calling for at least $1 billion in cuts to New York City Police Department's funding have started camping out in front of City Hall ahead of the city's July 1 budget deadline.
Protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death showed no signs of slowing down since they began earlier this month. Police reform advocates say the city's nearly $6 billion police budget need to be significantly slashed and reinvested into housing, health care, other social services and communities impacted by police misconduct.
After hundreds of demonstrators marched across the city again for hours on Tuesday, dozens of them stayed behind and slept on benches and in sleeping bags on the grassy area outside of City Hall.
In addition to cutting the police budget, the #DefundNYPD campaign is also calling on the city to block increases of any NYPD budget lines in 2021, deny any new policing-related initiatives and require budget transparency.
While Mayor Bill de Blasio has taken steps to reform the largest police department in the country and pledged to cut some funding, he and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea have not committed to the $1 billion budget decrease that protesters and many city council leaders are asking.
In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Shea acknowledged the need for belt-tightening — but he cautioned against cuts that might compromise public safety.
“I think everyone has to cut. I think we’re going to be forced to do difficult things. We certainly get that," Shea told the AP. "What concerns me is a moment in time and some rash judgments stepping in and taking the place of some well thought out conversations about how to cut smartly.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain, is among city leaders asking for police reform and defunding. He says he believes the City can still maintain public safety at the same time as rein in spending.
The police department's budget has ballooned from about $3 billion in 2000 to nearly $5.7 billion in the current fiscal year.
Some of that increase has come from taking over policing functions from other agencies. In the mid-1990s, the department absorbed the city's then-separate housing and transit police departments. In 1998 it took over school safety functions from the Education Department.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks led to increased spending on special NYPD units, including counterterrorism and intelligence.