The Greensboro City Council didn’t discuss defunding the Police Department at its Tuesday, June 8 budget work session.
But there was an apparent effort by Councilmember Michelle Kennedy to start dismantling the Police Department, one brick at a time.
This City Council, which has approved two $500 million plus budgets with barely a question except to increase how much favored nonprofit organizations receive, went over the police budget to the point of discussing a purchase of $7,700 made in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Kennedy asked if the Police Department needed attorneys and a communications department. She suggested that the attorneys be moved to the city attorney’s office and communications for the Police Department be handled by the Communications and Marketing Department.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “This is absolutely about defunding the police. This is not going to be done overnight.”
She added, “We always talk about how we want to hear from people and we want them to be at the table. Well, they’re not at this table.”
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said that it was not a budget issue but an “organizational development” issue.
Kennedy agreed that the changes she was recommending would not affect the overall budget.
What her suggestions would do is reduce the police budget and increase the budgets of other departments.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “If we are moving things to make it look like we are reducing the police budget then it’s just a shell game.”
The two police attorneys actually work for City Attorney Chuck Watts, but they work in police headquarters and the Police Department pays the city attorney’s office for their services.
City Manager David Parrish noted that it was a budgeting approach that the city had taken for many years.
Councilmember Goldie Wells said that the people in her district complained about not having enough police.
Vaughan noted that when Police Chief Brian James was holding community forums, before they were canceled by the stay-at-home order, that “most of the neighborhood associations requested more police. They wanted to have more police in their neighborhoods.”
Kennedy and Councilmember Tammi Thurm also asked a host of questions about chemical munitions used by police.
The police chief said that on Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1, the police used pepper spray, pepper balls and CS gas or tear gas. He said those were only used after people started throwing rocks, bottles and other objects at the police.
James said, “We were being assaulted by rocks, bottles and other objects.”
And he added that the police had found stashes of rocks, bottles and other objects around the downtown.
Kennedy kept asking how much the police spent on those chemical munitions and how much the Police Department would spend in the future.
James said, “I wouldn’t know until we made the purchase.”
Budget and Evaluation Director John Decker said that the last purchase of chemical munitions was in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
Parrish said that the peak of expenditures for that type of product was $7,700 and that the money came from the miscellaneous line item in the budget.