After failing to defund the police last year, the city of Atlanta has snapped back and not only maintained its police budget, but increase police funding to combat the rise in crime.
Following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the push to defund the police, Atlanta attempted to withhold $73 million dollars from the policing budget while the city reformed the way it polices, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Not only did that vote fail, but a year later amid an increase in homicides, a new budget was passed that increased police funding by 7% to over $230 million dollars – a $15 million dollar increase.
The decision marked a complete change in tone from city council members. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and council members say that the budget increase is crucial to address the rise in crime before the city’s upcoming elections.
Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd, chair of the council’s public safety committee, said the majority of residents in her predominantly Black southside district want a greater police presence to deal with crime.
“A massive amount, 75%, 80% of the people are saying, ‘Are you crazy? Why would we defund the police?’” Sheperd said Thursday during a tour of the city’s police academy.
However, addressing the rise in crime and boosting public safety may just be a political initiative for some.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, nearly all candidates for council seats and the mayor’s office are running a campaign crime prevention and funding the police – a complete turn around from last year.
City officials say the funds will go towards filling 250 vacant officer positions, as well as retention and eventual pay increases.
CEO of the Atlanta Police Foundation Dave Wilkinson said, “It’s no secret that it’s an all-hands-on-deck approach right now. With addressing crime, the most important thing we have to do as a city … is support the police officers right now. It starts with more police officers. Secondly, more cameras and more technology.”
Contrary to the defunding narrative, the Atlanta police budget has increased by $50 million dollars in the last three years.
“It is so incredibly symbolic right now that the mayor and City Council … have gotten solidly behind our police department,” Wilkinson said.
The situation in Atlanta isn’t very different from other cities across the country, including cities that went ahead with defunding their police departments last year. Cities like Los Angeles and Oakland that cut funding from their departments last year have begun refunding the police following the uptick in crime this year.