San Diego City Council Refuses To Defund The Police Department

( Bucking a trend around the country, and not listening to more than 4,000 local residents’ pleas, San Diego will actually increase funding to its police department.

By an 8-1 vote on this week, the City Council will increase funding for the police department by $27 million to cover pay raises that were already approved as well as COVID-19-related expenses.

On Monday, residents packed the City Council meeting demanding they defund the police department, or at least reduce funding to it like Los Angeles announced it would do with the LAPD. One resident, Breana Clark, was especially vocal.

“De-fund this city-sanctioned militia that is terrorizing black people,” she said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We need resources in our communities, not these thugs wearing a badge. You have blood on your hands. Get busy.”

The rallying cry of “defund the police” is unifying people across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. People who are calling for this to happen want to see a massive overhaul of policing systems, with money that was formerly going there to go toward programs and services in the black community and other communities of color.

While San Diego’s City Council voted not to reduce funding to the police department, they did address two of the crowd’s concerns by increasing funding for rent relief to $15.1 million (from $5 million) and creating a city Office on Race and Equity.

The rent program prohibits landlords from charging late fees for up to one year, and provides rent relief to households across San Diego. The program was proposed by Councilman Chris Ward, who was the only person to vote against the budget. He said he did so because the rent relief funding wasn’t as much as he wanted, nor was there enough for small business help.

While many of the audience members who spoke at the meeting were vocal in support of defunding the police, councilmembers didn’t directly address that concern. Their votes, though, spoke for themselves — the councilmembers don’t want to defund the police department, even if they sympathize with the residents’ concerns.

As Council President Georgette Gomez said:

“I want to acknowledge that we do have a lot of work to do. We need to invest in our communities that need it the most.”

And Councilwoman Barbara Bry said:

“You want reform. I want reform. Many years of constrained budgets have resulted in the demise of community-oriented policing in San Diego and a return to the military-style, search-and-destroy approach.”

Even Mayor Kevin Faulconer chose to focus on the benefits of the new Office on Race and Equity as a solution, rather than on defunding the police. He said:

“To end racism, we need systemic change. This office, I believe, will be a step in that direction. It has my full support.

“This new office would help eliminate barriers as it relates to city contracting, city policies and developing stronger relationships with the community. It’s the right thing to do.”