Hartford City Council Votes to Reduce, Reorganize Part of Police Budget

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The Hartford City Council has voted to reduce the police department budget and to reallocate funds, both inside and outside of the department, including to social service.

The Hartford City Council unanimously passed a proposal early Thursday morning on the city’s 2021 budget.

The proposal is subject to approval by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

He said the passed budget includes 6 percent of reductions from and reallocations within the police department budget compared with last year and Bronin supports that 6 percent combined reduction and reallocation.  

According to the mayor's office, that amounts to $1.6 million cut and an additional $1 million reallocated within the police department.

The proposal reallocates $1 million was directed toward social services.

The proposal allocates $300,000 to create permanent domestic violence teams, $700,000 toward increasing beat officers and additional training, such as racial bias screening for police who are hired, trauma counseling and career development training, especially minority officers.

The vote comes amid demonstrations and protests across the country to defund police departments in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes.  

“While I don’t support ‘defunding’ police, I fully support reimagining policing and embracing real reforms – and I believe that our department does, too," Bronin said in a statement on Thursday morning.

“We need our Police Department.  Our officers play a critical role in responding to, solving, and preventing serious crime, and the reality is that we have serious crime in our community.  But it’s also true that many calls for service are related to issues like mental health, substance abuse, or interpersonal disputes, and that law enforcement officers shouldn’t always be the first ones or the only ones responding – though those situations can often be very dangerous," Bronin said. 

Earlier in the week, Gov. Ned Lamont was asked about calls to defund police departments and said we should not be “defunding” police but that police response is considered a response to a broader array of societal ills that other types of experts might be able to help deal with.

Governor Lamont answers a question about what he thinks about the rallying call to defund police across the country.

Before the vote, Anthony Rinaldi, president of the Hartford Police Union, said slashing the police budget would mean dramatic cuts to its community-oriented police plan and expensive police training that includes diversity education.

He said the department has its highest number of minority officers, 42 percent, in at least a decade and cuts would hamper their recruitment efforts which include bringing on more minority police officers.  

After the vote, he responded with a statement on the plan:

“The Union feels that this is fair and should not have repercussions on how we police the community. We understand the need for funding for youth programs and such. We are glad that City Council recognized that it is very important to maintain a healthy Public Safety budget.”

Under Mayor Luke Bronin’s proposed 2021 budget, $45.9 million, a little over 8 percent of the city’s $567 million budget would have gone to police. That was a 1.5 % decrease in police funding from last year.

The mayor’s original budget called for decreasing the police department budget by $680,000.

The city council voted to take another $1 million from the police department budget.

The vote is still subject to approval or veto by the mayor.

The mayor said there was a proposal before the city council that would have cut around a quarter of the police budget, which would not have been responsible or transformative. That did not pass.

“Cutting nearly a quarter of the police budget overnight would not have been responsible, and it also would not have been transformative – it would have just left us with a hundred fewer officers, no community service officers, no walk beats, and unacceptable response times,” Bronin said in a statement.  “I support the City Council’s decision to reduce or reallocate six percent of the police budget compared with last year – funding my proposal for a permanent investigative staff for the Civilian Police Review Board, investing in training in implicit bias, de-escalation, and cultural competency, and dedicating more funding to public works and housing inspections.”

The details of the three-part plan are expected to be released later today.

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