San Diego defies demands to defund police by expanding budget

The budget earmarks money for the city's first Office on Race and Equity

The city council in San Diego, the second-largest California city, voted almost unanimously to increase police funding even after thousands of petitions pleading for cuts amid nationwide protests over the deaths of black people in police custody.

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On Monday, after a marathon 12-hour meeting, the San Diego City Council voted 8-1 to adopt a budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year that included an increase of $27 million for the San Diego Police Department, pushing its budget for the year to $566 million, according to multiple reports.

The department's budget was $539 million in 2019-20 and $480 million the year prior, FOX 5 reported.

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The council's move defied wishes expressed in more than 4,400 phone calls and emails, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Following the death of George Floyd, a black man being detained in Minneapolis, a nationwide movement has begun pushing to divert taxpayer money from law enforcement toward programs addressing problems from poverty to homelessness and mental health.

Phone calls into the meeting outstripped the capacity of the city's telephone system, forcing many callers to wait on hold, according to multiple reports.

Supporters say their goal isn't eliminating police departments or stripping law enforcement agencies of all their money but instead to use some of the cash to address systemic challenges such as lack of access to housing and education.

Roughly two hours from San Diego, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has vowed to cut as much as $150 million from a planned increase to the police department’s budget.

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San Diego representatives including Mayor Kevin Faulconer didn't immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment on Wednesday. In a news conference Tuesday, the mayor said the city is juggling an array of priorities.

"Not only must we help our economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must also help our nation acknowledge and act on systemic racism, systemic racism that has held back far too many Americans from their true potential," Faulconer said. "The budget that the City Council adopted yesterday lays a foundation for our city to move forward on these fronts."

Falconer promised San Diego's budget will also help fund essential neighborhood services including child care, homeless shelters and internet access for low-income residents.

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In addition to that, the budget funds the first-ever Office on Race and Equity, proposed by Councilwoman Monica Montgomery. Roughly $3 million was also allocated to create a community equity fund for the office to "help heal the racial tensions" within the city.

"As elected officials, we must honestly and genuinely address the root causes of the local protests — the inequity in enforcement and the systemic racism that is prevalent in our region,” Montgomery told the Times of San Diego. "From the beginning of my administration, I have championed a holistic approach to reform measures, including economic justice components. This new Office on Race and Equity is another step in the right direction, along with other reform measures.”

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The lone vote against the budget came from councilmember Chris Ward who said the city needs to "allocate more funding into rental assistance, small business assistance" and that they need to "put federal dollars to use for the people who need it."

"I don't think we've gone far enough," Ward tweeted. "This isn’t the right budget for District 3 and did not earn my vote."

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