San Diego Rejects Calls to Defund Police, Increases Department's Budget

The San Diego City Council rejected calls to reduce police funding in the next budget and instead voted to increase spending on the department by $27 million.

Thousands of residents had urged the council to reject the planned increase in funding to $566 million in the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, which has sparked Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality protests across the country.

According to The San Diego Tribune, more than 400 people had called in to demand the defunding of the police department during the 12-hour council debate, with a further 4,000 people emailing their concerns.

There have been growing calls for reallocating money used to fund police into other areas of the community, such as health care, rental assistance programmes or COVID-19 relief funds.

Similar sentiments have also been expressed in other areas of the U.S., with the NYPD and LAPD forces expecting millions of dollars to be cut out of their budgets. The Minneapolis Police Department will also be dismantled in the wake of Floyd's death.

"Defund this city-sanctioned militia that is terrorizing black people," resident Breana Clark told the council. "We need resources in our communities, not these thugs wearing a badge. You have blood on your hands. Get busy."

Fellow San Diego resident Olivia Benice dismissed concerns that cut police funding will result in an increase of crime.

"This budget would be better spent investing in social service infrastructure, to improve quality of life in this city," Benice said. "Police should not be the jack-of-all-trades of societal aid—there need to be specialized, dedicated teams for different types of responses to emergency calls."

Matthew Bishop, volunteer at the San Diego Rescue Mission, described the addition of more funds to the police as "embarrassing with a capital E," reported NBC San Diego.

"There's an old saying that if all you have are hammers, everything starts to look like a nail. If you give more resources to the hammers of our city—the police—more and more people are going to look like nails."

The San Diego City Council ignored the calls and instead voted 8-1 in favor of approving the proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

Councilman Chris Ward was the only one who voted "no" on the budget. He said he was disappointed that his rental relief fund for low income backgrounds impacted by the coronavirus pandemic would not get as large a percentage of the budget as he had hoped for.

"This has been a budget year like no other, and I want to thank this community for breathing new life into our public discourse," Ward tweeted.

"You've shown us the way to meaningful reforms for a more inclusive and just community, and you mobilized and organized thousands of San Diegans into this debate. Thank you."

Speaking to KPBS, Ward said the budget also does not cover enough of what is needed to implement meaningful changes in the police force.

"I would have liked to have seen a reallocation of resources from police towards programs, policies and initiatives that support this work... because we need to be investing more in our people, proactive measures and less in reactive measures."

Under the new budget plans, a new Office of Race and Equity will be created in order to address some of the concerns raised by residents in the wake of Floyd's death.

"As elected officials, we must honestly and genuinely address the root causes of the local protests—the inequity in enforcement and the systemic racism that is prevalent in our region," Councilwoman Monica Montgomery said.

"From the beginning of my administration, I have championed a holistic approach to reform measures, including economic justice components. This new Office on Race and Equity is another step in the right direction, along with other reform measures."

The San Diego City Council has been contacted for comment.

San Diego Police Department
A San Diego Police Department officer during a protest. Sean M. Haffey/Getty