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Campaign Updates

06/10/2020 | Justice Transformation

Congress Must Divest the Billion Dollar Police Budget and Invest in Public Education

“Police budgets continue to be consistent across diverse geographies and cities in the United States, with up to 20% to 45% of discretionary funds allocated to the violent system.”


WASHINGTON, DC – On the same day that Congress gathers to discuss legislation to address police violence, accountability, and the health and economic impact of COVID-19, the Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD Action) released newly updated data from the 2017 report, Freedom to Thrive: Reimagining Safety & Security in our Communities.

The updated data exemplified much of what we already knew to be true - the police continue to receive an astronomical percentage of discretionary funds compared to resources that actually keep communities safe. Police budgets continue to be consistent across diverse geographies and cities in the United States, with up to 20% to 45% of discretionary funds allocated to the violent system. All of the police budgets analyzed in the Freedom to Thrive Report have increased since FY17. New data, however, demonstrates that in the city of Milwaukee, where grassroots demands from groups, like Liberate Milwaukee, have successfully called for divestment, the budget is significantly lower.

The data, coupled with the most recent national uprisings calling for the defunding of police and for police-free schools, have reinforced the Center for Popular Democracy Action’s demands to local and federal elected officials to permanently end and cease any further appropriation of funding to local law enforcement in any form. CPD Action has sent letters to the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, to ensure that our government commits to defunding the current $100 billion police budget and invest the $305 billion needed as identified by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to support the state revenue shortfalls and new education expenses associated with the pandemic.

The House Judiciary and Senate HELP committees have the power to end infamous programs like Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program immediately. COPS, implemented under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, otherwise known as the 1994 Crime Bill, has proven to be a direct cause of the perpetual cycle of police violence in communities, and most emphatically in schools.

An excerpt from the full letter to Congressional Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee can be read below.

"Recent research directly linked the COPS grant program, COPS in Schools, to decreased graduation rates: “exposure to a three-year federal grant for school police decreases high school graduation rates by approximately 2.5 percent and college enrollment rates by 4 percent.” The prevalence of school-based police has little to do with “crime” and much more to do with how many Black students attend the school."

An excerpt from our full letter, alongside other national organizations to the House Judiciary Committee, outlines:

"The COPS program has directly contributed to the increased size, scope, and role of policing across cities in our country, and subsequently the endless stream of killings and violence perpetrated by law enforcement on Black people particularly. The COVID-19 crisis and accompanying economic loss paired with the brazen and violent behavior of police forces have demonstrated the need for a nationwide reimagining of public safety that does not include further allocation of limited and vital resources to police."

The people of this nation have made a call to defund the police and to dismantle the systems of mass criminalization and incarceration. CPD Action’s ongoing work to redefine public safety, in a country where every person should have the freedom to thrive, targets local, state, and federal policies and budget priorities. Congress must respond to its constituents with policies and budgets that invest in resources that keep communities safe, educated, healthy, and thriving.


Media Contact: Inarú Meléndez, 413-331-9530, imelendez@populardemocracy.org


The Center for Popular Democracy is a national network of more than 50 community organizations dedicated to achieving racial and economic justice through local grassroots organizing. CPD trains and supports leadership, staff, and members to grow base-building organizations to scale and leverage that strength to win cutting-edge policy victories at the federal, state and local level.