“I am committed to reallocating funds from the Police Department into social services,” said Providence City Councilmember Nirva LaFortune. “I also want to be strategic about it and think about what areas in our city we need to support.“
Toward the end of a community discussion on policing and the Providence budget held by Providence City Councilmembers Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2) and John Goncalves (Ward 1), a question was asked about where the council members stood on defunding the police.
“Will you commit right now to voting to defund the policed? If so, how much will you commit to defunding?”
None of the council members would commit to an amount, the budget process is extra complex this year due to the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent economic downturn. The budget is dependent of Federal aid, which may or may not be forthcoming.
Still, the council members were firm in their commitment to reallocate some money from the police to social services.
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“I am committed to reallocating funds from the Police Department into social services. In terms of the amount, I want to see what the community has stated and also look at the budget to see where the needs exist, because I also want to be strategic about it and think about what areas in our city we need to support.
“We have a housing stock issue. We just don’t have enough affordable housing in our city… Most of our communities are cost burdened, which means that they’re paying over 30% of their income in housing.
“I’d like to see more investment in our schools. Someone mentioned summer jobs opportunities for our youth.”
“I am very supportive of reallocation of some of the police funds.”
Anthony said she does not want police responding to social problems. She wants to create “some other model that can address those issues. I don’t want it based in public safety or the police department, I think it should be a community driven response team.”
“I [am] committed to doing that work, to reallocating police funding… towards housing, homelessness, social services, jobs… We’re navigating a very complex political process from a legality perspective it’s hard to do that.
“We need to think about addressing the underlying challenges that contribute what we call, ‘so-called’ crime, like poverty and homelessness. These things shouldn’t be criminalized.”
As a follow up, the council members were asked, “Will you commit to voting against any budget that does not reallocate funds from the police?”
Councilmembers Goncalves, Anthony, LaFortune, and Council president Sabina Matos (Ward 15) all answered, “Yes.”
Reached later, Councilmembers Kat Kerwin (Ward 12) and Rachel Miller (Ward 13) also confirmed that they will not vote for a budget that does not reallocate money from the police.
Here’s the video:
The community discussion lasted just over two hours. Here, facilitator Vatic Kuumba provides some of the history around policing in Providence:
Councilmember Anthony presents some of the numbers the City Council is dealing with as they discuss the 2021 budget and policing:
An explanation of what defunding the police means and what it may look like:
A look at the public’s reactions to a poll about what reallocation may look like, and what the public’s priorities are:
Here’s the entire two-hour video: