Providence mayor responds to City Council ultimatum on police funding

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Providence’s mayor is responding to an ultimatum from several members of the City Council. They say they won’t approve a city budget unless it moves money away from police into other public safety efforts.

Mayor Elorza on Friday did not use the phrase “defund the police,” but said reallocating some police funds would be smart.

“We’ve been asking our police officers to do so much more than they did a generation ago,” said the mayor, a Democrat. “Some of the things they do today are things they’re just not trained for or qualified for.”

One example of that, Elorza said, is when police respond to a call for a suicidal person.

“We should be investing in trained professionals in that area, to not only take that burden away from the police department, but also provide a better service to the community,” he said.

Elorza noted there was initial resistance to community policing efforts before he says they eventually came to be seen as valuable.

“You’re not going to see the returns right away, it takes time for these programs to mature and start to pay the dividends that they promise,” he said.

But a new Pew Research survey finds the majority of Americans want their police department budget to stay the same or increase.

Yet Elorza says more officers doesn’t equate to safety.

“We’re at historically low levels of crime, “the mayor said. “We’re also at much lower levels of police officers than we were one and two decades ago. The way that you get to a safer and healthier community is not necessarily through having more cops to arrest more people, it’s about being proactive and addressing crime before it happens.”

Elorza expects the city budget to be finalized late next month.

Categories: News, Politics, Rhode Island