2021 Florida Police Dept. Budgets: They’re Not Defunded

Usually, most of us wouldn’t care how much our local police department spends. But after the death of George Floyd and calls to defund the police, that money is seen as more than dollars and cents. It’s about priorities and how cities can better meet residents’ needs.

While few argued for completely defunding and shutting down police departments, many want resources used elsewhere to better serve the community in a way that’s less aggressive and less likely to result in violence.

With this in mind, local Florida budgets are being finalized for 2021, reports WUSF. But only two local police departments saw a cut to their budgets.

If you or a loved one are arrested in the Tampa area, call defense attorney Brett Metcalf right away for a free consultation. He’ll explain your options and what to expect 24/7.

Most Area Police Depts Will Have Bigger Budgets

One highlight locally is that the St. Petersburg Police Department added the Community Assistance Liaison Program. This incorporates 18 to 20 social and mental health workers responding to non-criminal domestic calls, in place of police officers. The department’s budget decreased by $1.6 million overall.

In response to criticism of police mistreatment of protesters, former Tampa Police Chief and Mayor Jane Castor started a task force to suggest changes in police policy and practices. As for defunding requests, she said she favors moving social service work away from officers when the city’s able to do that. The projected budget for FY 2020 in Tampa is $182,164,976 and the proposed FY 2021 budget is $179,747,618.

Clearwater’s projected police department operating budget for FY 2020 is $44,832,880 and the proposed FY 2021 budget is $46,965,023. In Sarasota, the police budget in FY 2020 was $34,171,327. The proposed FY 2021 budget is $35,598,578.

In addition, the Sheriff’s departments in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Sarasota, and Manatee counties are all seeing increases.

Money Going to Police May be Better Spent Elsewhere

“There are many good reasons to shift funding from law enforcement so others can play roles not well suited for police officers,” according to Rayshawn Ray of the Brookings Institute.

  • Nine of ten calls are for nonviolent encounters. Officers are mostly trained in use-of-force tactics and worst-case scenarios to reduce threats while most interactions with civilians start with a conversation.
  • Shifting funding to social services could improve mental health, addiction, and housing programs. Arresting those dealing with a mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness just fill up jail cells. It doesn’t solve problems. Criminal records then make it more difficult for them to obtain housing and jobs.
  • Officers are often called to scenes where problems have nothing to do with criminal activity. Their time is then spent filling out forms and paperwork. More crimes might be prevented and solved if less time was spent elsewhere. About 38% of murders, 66% of rapes, 70% of robberies, and 47% of aggravated assaults are unsolved every year.

Afterall, if crime reduction is our priority, then improving education and increasing job opportunities is a better approach. A study based on 60 years of data found no significant connection between police funding and reduced crime. Moving funds from police departments to other parts of government may be more effective in controlling crime and police violence.

Those Caught Up in the System Still Need Legal Help

Brett Metcalf is a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, Florida. As a former prosecutor, he knows the pitfalls within Florida’s criminal justice practices, and uses this knowledge and experience to help others. With more than ten years of experience and a community-driven mindset, Brett’s practice is centered on defending the rights of Florida’s citizens.

If you or a loved one is being investigated or facing criminal charges, Brett Metcalf, Criminal Defense Attorney, P.A., can help. Reach out online or call (813) 258-4800 for a free and confidential consultation.