De-Fund The Orlando Police Department
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Politics and Activism

De-Fund The Orlando Police Department

It goes without saying that the City of Orlando's priorities are majorly skewed.

De-Fund The Orlando Police Department
Genevieve Timm

On September 25, 2019, the City of Orlando approved a $1.4 billion budget. While the fire department will see the biggest increase in money this year, Orlando firefighters like Steve Merkel are concerned it will not be prioritized to pay for more firefighters, mentioning that it is "very disturbing and disrespectful considering the loss of lives and the potential for more." According to WMFE, the number of firefighters has only increased by 1 person over the last 3 years – hovering at 568 personnel.

However, the Orlando Police Department is receiving an increase in positions, including 20 new officers, 2 lieutenants, and 3 sergeants at the Orlando International Airport alone. It is also worth noting that most of the funding is going to the police department at nearly $164 million, the second-highest is the fire department at $121 million (FY 2019-20). The sad reality is police departments and corrections are often the biggest expense for U.S. cities.

Not even 6 months ago, metro Orlando was ranked as worst in the nation for housing with just 13 affordable, available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households, according to Washington D.C. – based National Low-Income Housing Coalition. Yet the housing (0.2%), public works (1.8%), and transportation (3.4%) departments compose only 5.4% of the city budget. Furthermore, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City Council cut funding from housing this year. In comparison, the police department made up 31.6% of general funding.

I think it goes without saying that their priorities are majorly skewed.

With that being said, the Orlando Police Department used force 3,100 times from 2010 to 2014 – more than double the rate of some similarly sized agencies. They also injured more than 1,900 people during the five-year period, with 1,200 of them requiring medical care. The city and its insurer paid $3.6 million in police-brutality claims. The research study conducted by the Orlando Sentinel pointed out concerning findings that alarmed many like Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal-justice professor and expert on police use of force.

In 2018, Orlando Police received 4 excessive force complaints. All of them were filed by black males – including a 13-year-old boy. In the case of the Black child, the OPD Officer Neal Chase kicked the boy in the chest after getting into a submissive position. What was the punishment? 16-hour suspension and a slap on the wrist. From 2013 to 2019, the Orlando Police Department killed 18 people; 9 of them were Black.

The racial disparity in this area alone is quite telling. Instead of implementing social work courses, in-depth training sessions, and upholding accountability within the Department, Mayor Buddy Dyer and Police Chief John Mina have made it clear they have no desire to reform the police system. Not to mention it has become pertinent more than ever before to vote and to be educated on who you are voting for. I am aware of the lower turnout rate amidst local elections but that must change. In addition to police chiefs and sheriffs, the position of the mayor in any jurisdiction holds more authority than the average person might realize. If their actions are even remotely insufficient, vote them out! As the people, we have the power. Without us, elected officials would have no one to govern.

All in all, it is overwhelmingly disturbing to see where taxpayer dollars are going towards. I call on both Mayor Dyer and Police Chief Mina to bring compelling proposals to the table in efforts to end police brutality, and that includes defunding the police. If there is little to no response, then they are not listening and should resign. As a leader, you are expected to address injustice. It is beyond absurd that we have a housing crisis in Orlando and there is a lack of attention directed towards funding for the housing department. As a society, we desperately need to straighten out our priorities.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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