CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall Monday afternoon to advocate for defunding the city’s police department.
The rally drew around 50 people as the budget and finance committee met to discuss the budget as well as the public input process that will take place this week.
The protesters chanted “Defund the police!", a demand being made across the country in response to several highly publicized instances of police brutality as well as growing awareness of the cut police departments take out of city budgets.
‘Defunding the police’ generally involves passing certain functions of police departments to other groups and social service agencies protesters say are better equipped to carry them out.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney’s recommended operating budget for the 2021 fiscal year stands at around $1.12 billion, of which around 70 percent is restricted to certain expenses such as Water Works and MSD.
According to a presentation Duhaney made Monday, the remaining $412 million goes to the city’s general fund budget, including $152.6 million, or 37.1 percent of the general fund budget, to the police department.
That figure of $152.6 million is up $900,000 from 2020′s $151.7 million. Meanwhile, Duhaney’s budget proposes to bridge a general fund gap of $73.4 million with cuts throughout other city departments.
The police department’s budget increase, according to Duhaney, is due primarily to wage increases built into the FOP labor agreement. Also included is $1.4 million for the body camera contract, $400,000 in overtime costs (due in part to the protests) and various other increases.
Officer-worn body cameras are one of the reforms put in place by the city’s landmark 2001 Collaborative Agreement to improve policing, police accountability and police relationships in the community.
To offset CPD’s budget increases, the department is delaying its next recruiting class from Nov. 2020 to June 2021, resulting in $1.2 million in savings.
CPD is also holding vacant 15 full-time equivalent civilian positions for 2021, resulting in $2.4 million in savings.
But protesters outside City Hall Monday want more cuts.
Organized by the Mass Action for Black Liberation, they say they intend to apply pressure to council members to defund the police department while ensuring reinvestment happens in communities around the city.
“We have come here today as black clergy,” Pastor Lesley Jones said, “to have a conversation with the mayor about defunding the police.”
The mayor’s office did not respond to request for comment about conversations had with the protesters, but Jones says the protesters were met with a “willingness to listen.”
They were not, however, met with “the affirmative to defund the police,” Jones explained.
Those who wish to make their opinions on the budget heard can do so at each of three public hearings at the Duke Energy Convention Center:
- Tuesday: 6 p.m.-midnight
- Thursday: 4 p.m.-midnight
- Friday: Noon-midnight