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'It would be like The Purge': Detroit residents, mayor resist calls to defund the police

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan believes the loudest voices in the calls for defunding the police would not feel the impact of the cuts, as they don't live within the city limits.

Roberto Wakerell-Cruz Montreal QC

As cities across the United States push to defund—or in some cases, disband—their police force—residents of Detroit, Michigan are voicing concerns that cutting funding for their department could lead to more crime.

Detroit, long known for being one of America's most violent cities, currently spends just over 15 percent of their total budget on policing. A total of $317 million is spent annually on the Detroit Police Department, placing the city at 27th out of America's 50 largest cities, despite Detroit having the sixth most dangerous metropolitan area in the United States.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said outright that she does not believe in defunding her state's police departments, a sentiment residents across the city share.

"It would be like 'The Purge,'" West Detroit resident Lavonn Robinson told The Detroit News.

"There are good people in Detroit, but there are some really bad ones, too, and you'd have people running around doing whatever they want. I think it would be another thing that would hurt the community," Robinson told The Detroit News, fearful that her city will follow in the footsteps of the likes of San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Seattle, whose police chief retired following the budget cuts.

Another West Detroit resident, Ethan Williams, told The Detroit News: "It takes a lawyer years before he can practice the law, but police can go out and enforce the law after six months in the Police Academy," Williams said. "That shouldn't be; they need more training, but you can't do that if you're defunding the police."

Detroit resident Andrea Wade, who runs a Detroit Crime and Homicide Facebook page, said that police funds should remain where they are, but that more investment in community programs would be welcomed in the Motor City.

"I've heard two different versions of what 'defund the police' means... I think most people think it means get rid of the police department and not pay them any money," Wade said. "I know that's not what it means. I do think we need to have more in terms of community policing."

The sentiment is also shared by city mayor Mike Duggan, saying that the loudest voices in the calls for defunding the police would not feel the impact of the cuts, as they don't live within the city limits.

"You've got people who are largely from outside the city coming into Detroit and saying 'defund police,' before going back home to the suburbs," Duggan said. "We need more officers on the street, not fewer."

The Detroit Police Force currently has a force of about 2,500 officers—a decrease of about 500 from 2007.

"Instead of defunding the police, I come back to the question: If you have $600 million in the Wayne County Community Mental Health Board budget, and $300 million in the police budget, we should be demanding accountability from the mental health system, not talking about cutting the police budget."

"The mental health system is absolutely failing the community, and the police end up on the front lines dealing with it," Duggan continued.


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