Providence residents plead to city council to defund police department

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – The Providence City Council Committee on Finance has been listening to seven hours and counting of public comment regarding the city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.

For the first time in months, the finance committee held a meeting that was both in-person and over zoom. Residents who wanted to testify could either sign up to speak in-person or speak virtually.

The public comment hearing began at 5:00 p.m. on Monday night. As of 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, testimonies are still being shared.

The majority of residents are asking the committee to defund the Providence Police Department.

“I don’t think the police are the solution. Police have only harmed the communities I live in and work in,” said Providence resident Claire Macon, who testified at the hearing.

The city’s proposed budget for FY 2021 is roughly $506 million. In 2020, the Providence Police Department received $85.6 million from the city. In the 2021 proposal, the department is slated to receive just over $88 million, which would be a 3% increase.

“We have been prioritizing police over students for years. We have a failing school district,” said Providence resident Nikteha Salazar, who testified on Monday. “We spend about $5,000 for every student in our district, but we spend $176,000 for every police officer sworn in.”

Residents like Salazar want to see the police department’s funding spent elsewhere, like on education, housing, mental health programs, transportation, and other social services.

“I call for defunding and not reforming,” said Providence resident Benjamin Hall.

The Providence Public Safety Commissioner and Colonel of the police department have spoken out against the defundment of the department.

“We feel that any stripping of a Providence Police Department budget– which is already paper thin– would completely ruin our efforts in the community for community engagement and just take us backwards,” said Col. Hugh Clements at the previous committee meeting.

The finance committee is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday night.

Categories: News, Politics, Rhode Island, Warwick