Just as officials in many cities around the nation have done, the Pasadena City Council entertained requests to defund the police during its Monday meeting.
“I think that word ‘defund’ means a lot of different things to different people,” said Pasadena NAACP President Allen Edson. “For me, the idea is to reduce the police budget.”
The slogan “Defund the Police” has dominated the national scene in the wake of the police brutality caught on tape following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneaoplis police officer.
“It think it’s not a great choice of words,” said Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek. “It means a lot of different things to a lot of people. Some people in the extreme literally mean reducing police budgets by 95 percent, and then there are others that are saying we should be reallocating.”
While the slogan may sound drastic, many believe that cities should divert funds from police departments to other social services, such as mental health, education and employment services.
Edson hopes that some of the police budget would help with the unemployment occurring due to COVID-19 and believes that when more people are working the number of crimes will naturally come down.
During public comments, members of the ACLU asked the council to reconsider funds directed toward the police.
“The ACLU of Southern California supports the call of many local civil society organizations, organizers, activists and community members in the city of Pasadena to reject the current proposed budget, and calling for the City Council to shift funding from the Pasadena Police Department,” ACLU senior staff attorney Mohammad Tajsar wrote for public comment.
“We also join the calls of other community members calling for a 20 percent reduction of the Police Department’s budget into social services and the public health department.”
Activist Kris Ockershauser called into question why the PPD received funding for a helicopter while the city Health Department esperienced a reduction in fundng.
“For starters, redirect the recently approved $420,000 for upgrading police helicopter surveillance technology of its cameras,” Ockershauser wrote. “The Health Department has been cut by more than $400,000 in the midst of a pandemic. Give the money to them.”
The Pasadena Police Department’s budget for 2020 was nearly $89 million, about 10 percent of the city’s approximately $870 million budget.
“We spend less money as a percentage of our budget on police than a lot of other cities,” said Tornek. “In spite of the fact that we have a city that requires a substantial police presence because we have a lot of special events that are Rose Bowl related.”
PPD’s budget pales in comparison to the budget for the Los Angeles Police Department, which is $1.8 billion, and the even larger New York City Police Department Budget of nearly $6 billion.
Even with these calls from some citizens and even Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti to cut $150 million from the LAPD, Pasadena looks to increase the budget for its police force.
In the proposed budget for the coming year, the city looks to increase its police budget. Of the nearly $879 million budget for 2021, $92 million would go to the police. While the overall amount of money going to the police has increased, the percentage of funds has stayed roughly the same at about 10 percent.
While the council approved the budget later in the meeting, it came with a stipulation that the staff could return and review the police budget.