Winston-Salem Effort To Reallocate Police Funds Tabled
A proposal to allot $1 million from Winston-Salem’s police budget to anti-poverty initiatives has collapsed, despite calls from activists to defund the department.
The idea was first floated by Council Member James Taylor Jr. He suggested freezing 15 vacant police officer positions to free up the money. It would then be distributed to several city housing and employment programs.
At Monday’s meeting, about a dozen community members spoke in support of shifting funds away from the department, including Ashaya Hammond.
“We need to do a lot more than we're doing. We need to defund the police. And I don't mean immediately abolish them. It's obviously a step-by-step process. But a million dollars. This is a breadcrumb,” says Hammond.
During the meeting, over a hundred protesters assembled outside Benton Convention Center to call for similar cuts.
But in the end, city officials determined that the funding may be needed to pay for police overtime.
Council then approved an amended measure. It creates a committee to decide where exactly to allot up to $1 million in city funds if it becomes available. The group must deliver recommendations for how the money could be used to address poverty by October 1.
“This is not a solution, but it's a first commitment by this city to actually begin to address what we're hearing out in the public here,” said Council Member John Larson.
Council also unanimously approved the 2020-2021 city budget, which includes a variety of cuts due to the economic effects of COVID-19.
City leaders chose to eliminate a net 20 positions and do away with raises, among other measures. Officials emphasized that funding to community agencies would not be cut under the new budget.
“This is without a doubt, one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging budget that's ever been made,” said Council Member Robert Clark. “But I'm grateful that we've been able to do it with no layoffs, no salary reductions, no tax increases, or no fee increases.”
The total budget amounts to $470.6 million, about $26 million less than the prior year.