WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Protests across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death are calling for the defunding of police. But in Wichita, the city’s proposed budget is showing the opposite with the police department set to receive an increase of nearly $6 million to its 2021 budget.
Project Justice ICT, a local activist group, has spent the better part of two weeks marching in protest.
“Our ultimate goal is empowering the community,” Project Justice ICT Director of Allies, Bettye Amend said. “In defunding, I think people lose the concept of reallocating. So moving money from one place into another.”
Protesters said the money could be better used elsewhere.
“Put into the schools, put into social services, put into mental health response,” Elia Nelson said.
City officials said the majority of that budget increase is to help pay for salary increases that were built into a contract last year in an effort to retain officers on the force.
“I do not see how lowering the police that we have the streets, who are already behind, being a good remedy to solve this problem,” Wichita City councilman Jeff Blubaugh said.
While Wichita Vice Mayor Cindy Claycomb said she’s heard from hundreds of constituents.
“I’ve heard from both sides as you might imagine, lots of emails and a lot of comments,” Claycomb said. “There’s been just a high demand for public safety, and I don’t think that’s changing for many people. I think there is a group of people asking for something different.”
On the other hand, protesters said the reallocation of funds will actually help police in the long run.
“Slowly taking money from the police and addressing the root of problem that causes crime is what’s gonna really solve the issues rather than just introducing more policing,” Nelson said.
Mayor Brandon Whipple said there needs to be a conversation about how money is being spent in the department.
“I think there is some misinformation about what we are actually doing as a department and where we are. We gotta have that discussion so that we can talk about building on top of that.”
Wichita City Council is scheduled to continue its conversation regarding the budget on Aug. 11. Project Justice ICT members plan to be there to voice their concerns.
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