What would “defunding” our police look like, and how would it work?

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

City of Bethlehem Final Budget 2020
Police Department pp. 133-48

City Council discussion of Police 2020 budget request November 2019
Part 1
Part 2

Gadfly’s previous post in this series was about national conversation concerning defunding police departments, so he has gathered here some basic budget information that we might want to think about.

Defunding means trimming police department responsibilities and reallocating funds into social programs.

The Police Department has 154 members, with a budget (c. $16m.) approximately 20% of the total City Budget.

Discussion at the Council budget hearing last year (links above) touched on subjects of manpower, overtime, body cameras, and so forth, and was cordial.

If there is interest now in cutting the police budget and reallocating the money, what would be cut? The size of the force? Overtime?

Further $$$$ figures necessary for this conversation would be 1) what we are spending now for desired social programs in comparison to what we are spending on police and 2) the cost of social programs that we would like to institute that we don’t have at all now.

Would, for instance, we take money from the police and transfer it to Community and Economic Development to enhance some programs already in operation and/or to initiate new programs?

Or would we cut elsewhere in the budget? Or see enhanced social programming as a justifiable reason to raise taxes?

Just trying to get a conversation started here.

Police 2

Selections from pp. 133-48 of 2020 budget (follow link above if too hard to read):

Police 3

Police 4

Police 5

Police 6

2 thoughts on “What would “defunding” our police look like, and how would it work?

  1. Someone at the City needs to change the practice of releasing documents as image-based PDFs. That approach not only creates PDFs where the text is not searchable, it also creates files that are much, much larger.

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  2. On the ‘defunding’ question, I think you need a comprehensive & deep community-engagement process *before* you can really know what the outcome should be.

    That being said, one of the most promising areas we see in some other cities is the use of 911-dispatched EMTs with special training in mental-health, de-escalation, and trauma victims; in some cities, [Austin, TX] these are part of the city EMS system, while in others [Eugene, OR] they are provided by a community organization (but still dispatched through 911).

    One of the problems here in PA is that most service programs are a county responsibility, so would it take going to a home rule charter to effectively do some things as a city function? (That, of course, might allow some other desirable changes at the same time!)

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