Detroiters want more investment in people, not police

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Landis Spencer is the co-chair of the Black Brown Alliance of Metro Detroit Democratic Socialists of America. Spencer spoke in front of the “Spirit of Detroit” downtown to urge City officials to pass a budget that will help build up the neighborhoods beyond downtown, Midtown and Corktown. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

This story has been updated to include a response from the city’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer Tanya Stoudemire. 

Last week, the mayor’s office presented its proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget and its four-year financial plan to City Council. Despite calls to defund the Detroit Police Department last year, the mayor’s budget proposal includes a 4 percent increase for policing. The police department already makes up about 30 percent of the City’s $1.1 billion general fund budget. 

The increase in money for DPD includes over $1 million for the department’s Mental Health Co-Response Initiative, a 2.5 percent pay raise for DPD officers, $1 million to resume DPD’s Police Cadet Program, and half a million dollars for the Shot Spotter program and forensic technicians.

The mayor also wants to increase spending for Project Clean Slate, a program that helps  qualified residents get certain convictions on their records removed from public view.

In accordance with its community engagement ordinance, the City held public forums and issued an input survey to better understand Detroiters’ budget priorities. It held virtual community budget meetings for each City Council district, which nearly 400 people attended out of a city of nearly 675,000 people. 


The City says over 1,000 people gave input on the budget, and it says the top five concerns were equitable distribution of city resources, giving more resources to “forgotten” neighborhoods, building and asset maintenance, improving and expanding community outreach efforts, and remaining financially sustainable, especially post-pandemic. 

Mayor Mike Duggan’s budget proposal includes a 4 percent increase for police. (City of Detroit Mayor’s Proposed Budget Presentation)

The mayor’s budget proposal says the highest-rated strategies were “crime control and household support.” Tanya Stoudemire, the city’s recently appointed Deputy Chief Financial Officer, says a “wide variety of public opinions” on policing centered on improving DPD. 

“Police supporters wanted training and reforms to save overtime or losses. The Police protest voice wanted a new healthier model of response to nonviolent calls,” Stoudemire said.

On March 5, as the mayor’s office presented its budget proposal, a small group of protesters gathered beside the “Spirit of Detroit” downtown, urging City officials to invest more in people and less in police. The group, which included community activists and members of the City Charter Commission, specifically asked for more affordable housing for Detroiters, improved public transportation and better infrastructure.  

Landis Spencer, co-chair of the Black Brown Alliance of Metro Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, spoke at the protest, and said an increase in police spending won’t help residents.

“Over the past few years, we have seen more money, more weapons and more technology devoted to the police department. Meanwhile, every year, Detroit remains one of the deadliest cities in America. At the same time, our roads are crumbling, our schools are underfunded and our neighborhoods lie abandoned,” Spencer said. 

Spencer wants to make sure no one mischaracterizes the idea of defunding DPD, spending less money on the department itself, as a way of saying he wants less public safety. He says the police department isn’t the only solution to public safety. 

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“Public safety encompasses everything, it’s a broad range of things,” he said. “It’s making sure kids have community centers to play in, it’s making sure that primary care is available for people, it’s making sure that people can get to their jobs and that people have jobs to work from.”  

Detroit Will Breathe co-founder Tristan Taylor said the City should be as focused on the average citizen as it is in creating incentives for downtown corporations. 

“If they were as creative in finding ways to fund the needs of the community, we would have a fully thriving Detroit,” Taylor said. 

Despite Taylor’s critique, the mayor’s budget proposal includes over $10 million in spending for workforce training programs, $3.5 million for home repair grants, $3.3 million for the Affordable Housing Development and Preservation Fund, and an increase of more than $3 million for public transit.

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