This is not a good time to be a policeman in the United States of America (USA). In the wake of the George Floyd incident, cops have faced great opprobrium from a large section of the population. They have also been required to deal with angry and hostile mobs hell bent on making their anger known and recorded through acts of vandalism.
One of the major battle cries from certain radical elements involved in the ongoing protests has been "Defund the police". This has invited scorn and criticism from the right-leaning sections of the intelligentsia but has garnered some very vocal supporters.
Ripples in New York
In New York also, there have been calls to cut down the budget of New York Police Department (NYPD) and divert some of the money to social schemes. Politicians of the city have already responded to these suggestions and the City Council has already floated a proposal to cut down the department's budget by $1 billion.
Rise in Crime Rate
However, this drastic proposal has come at a bad time. There has been a substantial increase in incidents of crime in the city. Even more worryingly, a sharp rise in acts of gun violence has made the police even more concerned.
The number of shooting incidents in June of 2020 is already higher than those in the corresponding month of all the past years going back almost quarter of a century. Last weekend, from Friday to Sunday, was particularly bloody as it witnessed 28 incidents of gun violence which left 38 people injured with bullet wounds.
So, if the proposed $1 billion cuts go ahead, how adversely will it impact the law and order situation in NYC? While there hasn't been an official statement from NYPD, a confidential memo, supposedly circulated by the agency, says clearly that such a big cut from the budget will be risky.
"The negative impact of a cut of this magnitude would be felt in every neighborhood citywide. A $1 billion cut to the NYPD's operating budget would set the city back three decades and severely compromise the significant progress the NYPD has made in keeping crime at historic lows and New Yorkers safe," the memo prophesies.
Luckily for the concerned police personnel, mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, is not yet in favor of these cuts. Since such a drastic reduction in funding is bound not only to reduce manpower but also affect the technical side of policing, it is easy to understand the mayor's reservations.
However, de Blasio has also promised, in the past, that he will divert some of the money that goes into funding the police towards social welfare schemes. This hasn't impressed the Police Benevolent Association, an organization that seeks to represent the officers of the department.
"For decades, every time a city agency failed at its task, the city's answer was to take the job away and give it to the NYPD. If the City Council wants to give responsibilities back to those failing agencies, that's their choice.
"But they will bear the blame for every new victim, for every New Yorker in need of help who falls through the cracks. They won't be able to throw cops under the bus anymore," the Association's official statement says.
Clearly, the authorities will have to do a tightrope walk. Police reforms are the need of the hour, there is consensus on that. But whether those reforms should include less funding is a very difficult question to answer.