Calling it funny money, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been highly critical of the NYPD, said shifting school safety agents to the control of the Education Department is not defunding the police.
“It’s just a law enforcement response and a law enforcement effort under a different name,” said Darius Charney, senior attorney with the legal group.
Mayor de Blasio and City Council are touting a slash of a billion dollars from the police department’s nearly $6 billion annual budget.
$430 million of that comes from moving roughly 5,000 school safety agents who are not police officers into the Education Department. School safety was under the control of the education system years ago when there was a lot more violence.
“In my experience in both working with communities of color in this city and also as a public school parent myself, the real crisis in the schools right now — it’s not violence, it’s lack of resources, it’s class sizes that are too big, not having enough guidance counselors, not having enough school social workers,” Charney said.
The president of the Citizens Crime Commission said school safety agents are needed.
“It is fundamentally unfair to send a kid into a school to learn when that environment is dangerous,” explained Richard Aborn.
The $1 billion in savings also includes not hiring nearly 1,200 new officers who were supposed to enter the July class in the police academy.
Charney believes one class of police officers is not getting at the problem.
"We have too many police in this city and we don’t have, as I said, enough school nurses, enough guidance counselors, enough hospital beds,” he added.
The budget also reduces police overtime by hundreds of millions of dollars.
Critics say they doubt that is achievable. But with gun violence spiking, the Citizens Crime Commission said as many cops as possible need to be on the street while reforms are made.
“Murders are up 25 percent this year, shootings are up 27 percent this year," said Aborn. "The last thing you want to do is take cops off the streets. And the council and the mayor didn’t do that.”
Even with the cuts, the NYPD will have at least 34,000 cops moving forward and a five billion budget to fight crime and serve residents.
“I would drop the term police force and adopt the term police service. Because when you are recruited into a police service your mentality is very different than a police force," said Aborn.
Advocates of reform said no matter how policing is characterized, they want fair policing in communities of color.