As budget season nears, activists call on Lightfoot to cut CPD funding

Defund CPD Campaign wants to see police layoffs to free up money for education, anti-violence programs.

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Damon Williams with Defund CPD speaks at a news conference announcing demands for the 2022 city budget. Tuesday, August 3. 2021.

Damon Williams, of the Defund CPD Campaign, said increased police funding will not lead to greater safety in economically depressed areas of the city.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Activist groups Tuesday called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot to slash next year’s Chicago Police Department budget to pay for increased social services, anti-violence outreach and school funding in crime-plagued communities.

At a news conference in the parking lot of Parkman Elementary School in Fuller Park, one of 50 schools shut down under Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013, members of the Defund CPD Campaign said that increased police funding will not lead to greater safety in economically depressed areas of the city.

“Simply put, what we are saying is well-resourced communities are safe communities,” said Damon Williams of Defund CPD, a coalition of groups described as “a Black-led grassroots abolitionist campaign.”

“If we want safety in our communities, the answer is very simple: Invest the resources directly into those communities,” Williams said.

The group also called for an end of “closed-door” negotiations of the city’s contract between the mayor’s office and the Fraternal Order of Police; a ban on using federal COVID-19 relief on police or aid for banks; and cancellation of the city’s contract for a high-tech gunshot detection system.

The news conference comes as Lightfoot’s office is beginning the cycle of public meetings on the budget ahead of submitting her 2022 spending plan to the City Council in September, a schedule she has moved up a month from previous years. City leaders also will weigh how to spend $1.9 billion in COVID-19 relief funds.

The 2022 budget would include a bump in the CPD budget if current staffing levels are maintained based on salary increases in a new contract reached with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents most of the city’s 12,000 rank-and-file officers.

Last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the city budget, Lightfoot did reduce the $1.8 billion CPD budget by eliminating more than 600 vacant jobs in the department while boosting city funding for community based anti-violence programs.

Williams called for further police layoffs to free up money for non-police approaches to the city’s surging violence.

Paul Vallas, who ran against Lightfoot in the 2019 mayoral race and has since served as lead negotiator on the FOP contract, has said that CPD staffing levels are unsustainably low when those lost positions were coupled with a wave of retirements in the last year that could trim another 1,000 officers from the force.

Lightfoot also will be negotiating a budget at the tail end of a summer that is on pace to match or slightly exceed the murder totals during 2020, when the city saw a 50% surge in killings.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), complained that 40% of the city budget went to CPD and another $280 million was paid out for police overtime, while a “snafu” prevented his ward from getting a grant to pay for a jobs program that would have aided youth.

“What will keep us safe is investment, is transparency, is actually discussing with our communities what works,” the alderman said. “This (current police funding) hasn’t worked. Based on the funding of police, of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago should be the safest city in the country. But what we see is immoral, it’s sad. It’s unacceptable.”

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