A call by some community members to reduce police funding in Buffalo for the upcoming fiscal year did was unsuccessful Thursday, as the Common Council voted to pass the spending plan by a six-to-three margin in a virtual special session.
The $143.3 million in funding is only about $30,000 less than last year’s, according to the group Partnership for Public Good.
Council President Darius Pridgen cited interactions with his constituents and compassionate white police officers he knows as a reason why he voted to pass the proposed budget.
“In this neighborhood and other neighborhoods they’re saying we want good police officers, trained police officers, police officers that care about us, not police officers that stand on necks with their hands in their pockets,” said Pridgen. “Not police officers that beat people on camera after they are already in handcuffs. That’s not what we want, and I stand with that.”
Community group Black Love Resists in the Rust called on citizens to engage with council members, hoping to reduce the budget by at least $1 million. Organizer Marielle Smith, in an interview shortly before the council's vote, said the group hoped that sum of money could be shifted to underserved neighborhoods.
"That money needs to go back into the East Side, and the West Side, and black and brown neighborhoods and communities so they’re able to have available food options and grocery options. And also so people are able to have more opportunities for employment and housing,” Smith said.
Smith said investing in those underserved and impoverished communities would be more effective in crime reduction and public safety than an emboldened police budget.
“We have to keep in mind that when there is high poverty, when there is high homeless rates, that means people are going to turn to things that aren’t legal to get money,” said Smith. “The budget that receives the most, that receives about 30% of the city’s money, is the police budget. It should not be that high, especially during this time of unrest, and especially during this time when police are killing black and brown people.”
BLRR also called on Mayor Byron Brown to fire officers involved in several recent police-involved deaths locally.