North Carolina lawmakers push bill to block local efforts to ‘defund police’


North Carolina Republicans have proposed a bill that would reduce state funding for local governments that cut local police funding.

Senate Bill 100 would reduce state money for cities or counties that cut police funding by more than 1% of what the law enforcement or other departments received the previous fiscal year. Under the bill, local governments that cut police funding would see an equivalent decrease in funding from the state.

Sponsors of the bill said it is a response to national outcry after the death of George Floyd to “defund the police.”

“We are seeing radical extremists launch vicious attacks on those enforcing our laws right here in North Carolina,” Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, said last week during a news conference introducing the measure.

The Asheville City Council voted, 5-2, in September to cut $770,000 from its police department, reducing its budget for fiscal year 2021 to $29.3 million, reflecting a 3% cut. The council reallocated the $770,000 for animal control and noise ordinance enforcement, public safety data analysis, broadband for public housing, homeless outreach, communications and public engagement.

National protests erupted in late May after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day. The spotlight on police brutality soon grew to calls for less government funding for law enforcement.

Asheville representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. City leaders said, during discussions, the city's police spending had increased over the past five years.

Chantal Stevens, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said the state should celebrate efforts like Asheville's and “not punish them.”

“It is reprehensible to punish local communities for shifting resources towards deeper, more meaningful investment in communities that address the racial disparities found in policing practices,” Stevens said in a statement.

According to a study by personal finance website MoneyGeek, North Carolina spends 5.6% of its budget, or $5.4 billion, on law enforcement. It ranks No. 9 compared with other states in police and corrections spending. Researchers said per capita spending in North Carolina is about $520.

North Carolina Police Benevolent Association Division President Randy Byrd said the legislation prevents elected officials from “making harmful decisions that fail to support officers and their agencies.”

“When you don't support these officers and their agencies, it can lead to officers leaving in unprecedented numbers and violent crime increasing,” Byrd said in a statement. “This is not a situation that any community wants to see themselves in.”

From June 1 to Oct. 21, 38 officers resigned from the Asheville Police Department, The Center Square reported in October. During the same time in 2019, 17 officers resigned and one retired.

Still, local governments said the Senate proposal imposes on their authority to make decisions on their budgets.

SB 100 was referred Tuesday to the Committee On Rules and Operations of the Senate, but it has not been added to the committee calendar for a hearing.

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