Near the end of a news briefing on Aug. 4, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany presented graphics of worsening police statistics in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York City that she said were tied to defunding the police.
Is it correct that the homicide and shootings statistics cited by President Trump’s press secretary were tied directly to defunding the police?
Mostly no. With police defunding plans just starting to be put in place in Los Angeles and New York, the crime comparisons didn’t fully reflect the budget cuts. In Minneapolis, the proposal to overhaul the police department won’t go to voters until 2021, if it makes it that far.
WHAT WE FOUND
On Los Angeles, McEnany’s graphic said: “LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has proposed cut of $150 million from the LAPD/14% rise in homicides this year (2020) vs. last year (2019).”
LA police statistics do show that homicides rose 14.2% from July 2019 to July 2020, but overall violent crime fell 6.9% in the same period. The city’s fiscal year started July 1. The budget passed that night and, in a Los Angeles Times story from July 23, the police chief said he was still hashing out cuts. He was beginning to curtail hiring, projecting a force of 250 fewer officers in July 2021. In other words, the July 2020 figures don’t reflect defunding. The $150 million reduction, from a police budget of $1.86 billion, also shifts funds to plug the city’s financial holes from the coronavirus pandemic as well as moving money to summer youth and city hiring programs for marginalized residents.
On Minneapolis, McEnany’s graphic said: “Unanimous vote in the Minneapolis city council to dismantle the police/94% increase in homicides compared to last year.”
The Minneapolis City Council passed in June a proposal to replace the police department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. However, residents must approve the city charter amendment before any changes are made, and they won’t see the issue on the ballot until at least 2021. So with no actual change in place, there is no tie of dismantling the police to homicide figures. As of Aug. 4, Minneapolis had seen 42 homicides in 2020 compared with 48 for all 2019.
On New York City, McEnany graphic said: “NYC city council cut police budget by $1B/177% increase in shootings from July 2019.”
New York City says for its 2021 fiscal year, which began July 1, it’s making $1 billion in cuts and shifted costs in the police budget “while maintaining patrol strength to protect the safety of all communities.”
Like Los Angeles, the New York City budget was passed at the last minute July 1 in a 32-17 vote, with budget-tightening across city departments because of the pandemic. Council members voting against the budget said police funding shouldn’t be cut when crime is rising, according to The New York Times, and the city did report 244 shooting incidents in July 2020 over 88 in July 2019 for a 177% increase.
The police budget includes a hiring freeze and the cancellation of the July class of new officers, as well as shifts the monitoring of illegal vending, the homeless and school safety to other departments.