Police departments are usually the biggest expense for an American municipal government. For the past week Americans have been getting a blunt demonstration of where that money has been going. Cops are beating up and tear-gassing peaceful protesters while actual looters run rampant. This is what we're paying for?
Unsurprisingly, such police behavior has drawn attention to the movement to dramatically reduce the money cities spend on police departments.
This week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city would cut up to $150 million from the LAPD's general funds budget and redirect that money elsewhere. If that actually happens, it could reverse a trend of annual growth in police spending. Los Angeles currently spends $1.8 billion on law enforcement out of its total $10.5 billion total budget—and that doesn't include pensions and health care.
It may be tempting to see the Defund Police movement as a bit naïve. The L.A. "People's Budget," based on interviews with more than 1,000 Angelenos, suggests cutting law enforcement spending to less than 6 percent of the city's general spending—instead of the current 54 percent—and redirecting that money to a host of social projects and housing programs. The dramatic disparity may partly reflect the fact that many of the groups involved with the survey hope to receive some of the redirected spending. Whatever they want to do with police budgets, the agenda here clearly isn't about limiting the rest of the government.