OUR AMENDMENTS TO THE MAYOR’S PROPOSED BUDGET
FOR FISCAL YEAR 2021/2022
City Council meets Wednesday to negotiate a budget for the coming year. Let’s talk about what Mayor Bronin has proposed, and how Councilwoman Bermúdez and I are proposing to make it more humane and equitable.
I’ve talked before about how Hartford overspends on police. Compared to cities our size, we have nearly twice the number of cops per capita compared to the national average. Usually, we have MORE than twice the national average, but the number of cops is down this year through attrition. We have 404 officers right now. The average for a city our size is about 215. The chief of police wants to get us up to 441 this year and 475 in the future. The explanation for this is an analysis based on “HPD’s policing methods.” Councilwoman Bermúdez and I think we should change those methods.
The chief has said that many of the things the police do could be done by civilians. He has said only 5% of calls for service involve a person with a weapon. We take him at his word and ask, “Why so many cops?”
We’re proposing a reduction of about 25% in the HPD budget. But it’s not just a cut. It’s a reallocation focused on creating real community safety and real community support, without the threat of violence that comes from an armed, non-resident, police force.
Most important, we’re proposing to take 1/3 from the general budget of each of the two HPD districts – $5.2 million total – to create a Civilian Response and Conflict Resolution Team that would respond to a large portion of police calls not involving weapons. We would also eliminate HPD’s Traffic Control division and move its entire budget – $1.6 million – to the Hartford Parking Authority to enable it to enforce the majority of moving and equipment violations (running a stop sign; busted tail light; etc).
We would move $1.5 million from HPD’S Vice & Narcotics division to the Department of Families, Children, Youth & Recreation to give young people more options and activities and discourage involvement with crime. Another $1.5 million in the HPD budget should go to the Department of Health and Human Services for the creation or expansion of resources for addiction services, support programs for survivors of sexual assault, and other mental health services.
We purpose talking $700K from HPD’s detention budget (fewer arrests means less need for detention) to create a renter insurance pilot program; $200K from the police chief’s office budget to create an office to people the arts in Hartford; $350K from the HPD HQ office to hire as many housing inspectors as the Director of Development Services says we need; $1.5 million from HPD to improve wages and training for DPW workers – the people who have the most direct impact on the environment we live in, the sidewalks our kids play on, and the roads we drive over.
This is a budget that prioritizes real public safety and real community health. If we have seen anything over the years, it’s that crime rises and falls without any connection to the number of police we employ, but the more police we have, the more we use violence and the threat of violence to address problems that could be resolved with compassion and community support. Feeding the police while starving the people is never worked. It’s time for something better!