After more than a week of protests and unrest in New York City following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mayor de Blasio has finally given in to the pressure and joined many of my colleagues on the City Council in calling for the “defunding” of the New York Police Department.
It’s amazing how rapidly progressives’ priorities shift — and the alacrity with which they embrace ever more radical positions.
A year ago — June 2019 — was marked by the suicides of four NYPD officers in a span of three weeks. By October, 10 members of our Police Department had killed themselves, and the City Council proposed legislation that would dramatically improve mental-health resources for officers. But that legislation has sat idle, and the mayor only offered a mere $1 million for additional mental-health services for cops.
Two years ago, the city mourned the Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS mass shooting in Florida with protests and calls for gun reform. Conversations about school safety were at the forefront as numerous threats arose in the weeks that followed. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli even released a report stating that many New York City schools weren’t prepared for a shooting or other emergencies. But today, advocates and the Department of Education want the NYPD school-safety agents out of their buildings completely.
Before this city’s lawmakers rush to set a national precedent by shifting funding away from NYPD toward education and social services, let’s first consider how those agencies are wasting taxpayer money.
Rather than investing in poorly performing schools in the communities that need it most, the DOE’s priority is to eliminate screening for the city’s best middle and high schools. To accomplish that flawed mission, the DOE employs 1,189 officials with desk jobs who make upward of $125,000 per year. At least 50 of those executives bring home more than $200,000 per year.
Yet the DOE wants to eliminate, rather than expand, the number of gifted and talented programs throughout the city that could provide more students with better opportunities to succeed.
ThriveNYC, the city initiative to tackle the mental-health crisis, still has a proposed budget of $231 million for the coming fiscal year despite heavy criticism from the City Council in 2019. Under the leadership of Co-Mayor Chirlane McCray, the department has failed to show any measurable outcomes for its services. Yet progressive activists would have the city shift critical NYPD funds to this failing boondoggle.
The Department of Homeless Services itself wastes an absurd amount of money on contracts with nonprofits that fail to live up to their duties. For example, Children’s Community Services operated 25 homeless shelters for more than $500 million since 2017, but it is now under investigation for defrauding the city of millions more.
This isn’t to say that the NYPD should be immune to budget cuts while our city is in the middle of a historic financial crisis. If anything, cuts to the police budget should start with the security details for the City Council and the mayor, who took NYPD officers around the country during his embarrassing presidential campaign.
But while the national movement to defund police departments continues to grow, New York City saw 13 murders last week. The number of shooting incidents was up by 21 percent as of May. Burglaries were also up by 38 percent in May, and that trend was capped off by a looting spree last week in which more than 2,300 burglaries were committed on June 1.
Yes, we should divert city funds toward youth and social services in an effort to keep our youth out of the criminal-justice system. That is absolutely vital to the future of this city. But divert those funds by spending smarter and eliminating the millions in waste from the agencies that are supposed to accomplish those tasks. Our police are just as vital to the future of our city.
City Councilman Robert Holden represents District 30 in Queens.
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