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Columbus Activists Say City Budget's Proposed Police Cuts Are 'Tiny Baby Step'

Columbus Police officers maintain crowds around the Ohio Statehouse on May 30, 2020.
Adora Namigadde
/
WOSU
Columbus Police officers maintain crowds around the Ohio Statehouse on May 30, 2020.

Columbus Division of Police may be facing a $20 million budget reduction next year.

Mayor Andrew Ginther unveiled his proposed 2021 budget on Thursday, which included about $1 million for the voter-approved Civilian Review Board and Inspector General to oversee Columbus Police, and nearly $2 million for health and social workers to be embedded in the Department of Public Safety.

People's Justice Project organizer Jasmine Ayres, who’s pushed for police reform in Columbus, calls the budget a “tiny baby step.”

“In actuality, we know that police don’t reduce crime," Ayres says. "A reduction in poverty usually leads to a reduction in crime."

Columbus Police account for about a third of the city's total budget, which is about $1 billion in all.

Ayres did compliment the increased funding for the city's Mobile Crisis Unit, a partnership where social workers accompany Columbus officers in responding to mental health calls. 

Ayres also wants to see more money for education and affordable housing.

“The safest neighborhoods don’t have the most police, they have the most resources," she says. "So if we’re really serious about changing the culture, about having safe neighborhood, we have to make long-term investments."

Ayres does see some of that investment in the proposed operating budget, like creating a director of affordable housing and increasing funding for the Department of Neighborhoods.

“All of these things could be good, but it depends on who’s in the seat and how much are they going to listen to the community,” she says.

The mayor's budget is just a proposal for now. Columbus City Council will deliberate over the numbers for the next few months, and final budget approval is expected come in February.