Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson’s told New Orleans’ City Council on Thursday that he is ready to absorb a hit. The Police Department is staring down a $16 million budget cut for next year, an eight percent decrease due to a steep drop in tax revenue during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite a sharp rise in violent crime, Ferguson said he’ll find ways to make it work, mostly by requiring officers take 26 unpaid days off, cutting pay for other employees by 10 percent and leaving non-critical positions unfilled, reports NOLA.com.
Under Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s proposed budget, funding for the department would drop from $193.7 million this year to $177.8 million in 2021. Other municipal agencies would take much bigger hits, in some cases up to 20 percent. Council members gave no indication they were mulling deeper cutbacks to the Police Department, despite calls from some critics, during protests after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, to reallocate substantial portions of law enforcement budgets to other social services. Instead, council members asked Ferguson how he planned to grapple with significant spikes in homicides, carjackings and non-fatal shootings, while also trying to complete the last few unfulfilled requirements in a package of federally mandated reforms that the Police Department has been implementing since 2012. Sade Dumas of the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition and one of the leading voices favoring the shifting of taxpayer money from law enforcement to other preventative social services, said she was disappointed that New Orleans officials intended to dedicate so much money to policing.