Mayor says City of Atlanta has been ‘defunding the police’ for the last few years

The national call to “defund the police” during the ongoing racial injustice protests has sparked heated debate for and against, not to mention confusion about what the term actually means.

Early Wednesday morning, a group of protesters spray-painted “Defund Police” on the street in front of the Atlanta Police Department’s headquarters in Downtown.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during her weekly conference call with the Atlanta City Council on June 10 that “defunding the police” doesn’t mean to get rid of cops and police departments. Rather, it’s about reallocating funding to social services and community enhancement initiatives led by trained professionals instead of officers.

“We are already reallocating around 50 percent of our corrections budgets into those specific areas,” Bottoms said. “We’ve been doing this work over the last couple of years and have been thoughtful on how we spend this money.”

Bottoms said putting public safety costs into community initiatives and closing the city jail were part of that “proactively thoughtful” plan. She said the bulk of APD’s budget goes toward salaries, pensions, workers compensation, and capital costs.

In related news, Bottoms said that the advisory committee she established on the APD’s use-of-force was having its first meeting on June 10 and a final report should be ready in 45 days. Two APD officers were fired and four others charged with using excessive force while arresting two college students on May 30.

Bottoms also said the city’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, will offer grants to small businesses damaged in recent vandalism, looting, and arson seen during the early days of the protests.

Businesses can receive grants up to $10,000, which can be used to reimburse an insurance deductible or pay directly for damages that cost less than the deductible. Initial funding will be targeted at businesses with one to nine employees and annual revenues of $300,000 or less. For full details and more information, see the Invest Atlanta website here.

The mayor also, once again, urged those who had participated in the protests to get tested for COVID-19.

John Ruch contributed to this report.

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