Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

US Protests: LAPD funding slashed by $150m, reducing number of officers

Police force budgets cut around country in response to Black Lives Matter protests

City leaders on Wednesday voted to slash the Los Angeles Police Department budget by $150 million, reducing the number of officers to a level not seen for more than a decade.

The move is an answer to demands to shift money away from law enforcement agencies as America deals with uproar over police brutality and racial injustice.

About two thirds of the funding was set aside for police overtime and will be used to provide services and programmes for communities of colour, including a youth summer jobs scheme.

The City Council’s 12-2 vote will drop the number of officers from 9,988 as of last month to 9,757 by next summer, abandoning a goal of 10,000 officers promoted by political leaders and only reached in 2013.

It is a significant change in the nation’s second largest city, where the 1992 acquittal of white officers in the beating of black driver Rodney King set off violent unrest.

That anger was reignited during some protests over the death of unarmed African-American George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Other cities around the country have cut police budgets or are moving to do so, including an effort in Minneapolis to disband the city’s force.

New York City councillors approved an austere budget on Wednesday that will shift $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) from policing to education and social services in the coming year.

In California, liberal Berkeley passed a budget on Wednesday that cuts $9.2m from police, while Oakland leaders last week slashed $14.6m from law enforcement and they are considering steeper reductions.

The Los Angeles vote reduces the LAPD’s budget of nearly $2bn.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti had proposed increasing it in April to help keep the level of 10,000 officers before facing intense opposition after Floyd’s death sparked a nationwide campaign to “defund” police.

There was no immediate comment from the LAPD. But Police Chief Michel Moore on Wednesday night tweeted that “we remain as resolved as ever to the conversation around reform, and continuing to walk forward together".

Mr Moore last month said the cut would require “a top-to-bottom assessment, including how we go about our most basic operations”.

He said the department had already begun to identify cost savings and service reductions.

The LA Unified School District voted to immediately cut its school police budget by a third.

The $70m budget for a force of more than 470 officers will be reduced by about $25m and the money dedicated to “support African-American student achievement to the extent of the law", its resolution said.

South Dakota

A South Dakota police department has removed a decal from its squad cars that featured a Confederate battle flag next to an American flag.

Dave Mogard, the police chief in Gettysburg, a small city named after the famous Civil War battle, declined to confirm that the decal had been removed, saying on Thursday that the City Council would discuss the issue at a meeting on Monday.

But several locals, including Selwyn Jones, an uncle of George Floyd, said the decal had been removed from the department’s squad cars and station doors.

Mr Jones called for the change after his nephew, who was handcuffed, died on May 25 while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.

A white police officer used his knee to pin Mr Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he begged for air and eventually stopped moving.

Floyd’s death led to charges against four officers who took part in the arrest and to worldwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Georgia

Authorities on Thursday arrested two more people on suspicion of arson in the burning of an Atlanta Wendy’s restaurant where a police officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, 27.

The arrests of John Wade, 33, and Chisom Kingston, 23, were confirmed by Atlanta fire spokesman Sgt Cortez Stafford, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said.

Protesters torched the fast food restaurant June 13, the night after police killed Brooks, an African American man.

Video shows that Brooks was shot in the back in the Wendy’s parking lot after he resisted arrest and fired a Taser while he was running away.

The newspaper said Wade was one of several people who organised demonstrations in Atlanta after the death of Floyd.

Updated: July 3, 2020 05:30 AM

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