Divest from the Police; Invest in the Community

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Dear Mayor Andre Sayegh and Council members:

I am emailing you today to urge you to redirect money away from the Paterson Police Department and into social programs that will more effectively meet critical community needs. Diverted funds would be put towards recreation, health and human services, public works, and community based public safety solutions proven to reduce violence. Police reforms have not solved police violence: the Minneapolis Police Department had already implemented many reforms, and George Floyd was still murdered. I urge you to take radical steps to defund the police and move towards the goal of reimagining public safety without a police department, per 8 to Abolition (8toabolition.com).

In Paterson’s 2019 adopted budget, the Paterson Police Department was allocated $48,222,064, consuming 17% of the total budget. This is by far the largest fraction of the city's budget, which is more than double the $16,392,098 allocated to the entire Department of Public Works.

Meanwhile, the Division of Recreation represents less than 1% of the city’s budget. The city’s recreation budget for fiscal year 2019 was $2.1 million. The highest amount the city ever allocated for recreation was $2.8 million in 2009, still an inadequate amount to fund recreation for over 30,000 youth and 150,000 residents. This decade we’ve witnessed both the slashing of the recreation budget and summer programming ending early. Divesting from the police budget, and investing into the recreation, would ensure that never happens again.

I urge you to advocate for a complete overhaul of Paterson's budget that directs at least $10,000,000 away from policing each year. All over the country, concerned residents are calling for budgets that truly represent the peoples’ needs.

The poverty rate for Paterson (25.2%) was more than double the estimated national average of 12.5%. In a global pandemic, it is crucial to invest funds in anti-violence such as areas like education, recreation, health and human services, and public works. Defunding is only the first step to creating a better future. I urge you to revise the proposed budget to reflect these demands, and show that Paterson is committed to true public safety for its Black community and all of its residents.

Mayor Sayegh and city council members, will you invest in our community by divesting funds from the police department or will you decide not to invest in the safety and livelihood of Paterson’s residents?

I look forward to your response.