CINCINNATI — The city’s public budget hearings began Tuesday at 6 p.m., with hundreds of Cincinnatians signed up to speak. One of the most contentious items on the docket: A proposed $1 million funding increase for the Cincinnati Police Department.
Local Fraternal Order of Police president Dan Hils said Tuesday afternoon that two weeks of protests showed that the department is worth the extra investment.
Black Lives Matter activists, whose outrage over the death of George Floyd was strengthened by videos of police mistreating protesters, said the opposite: The protests are proof that police already have more money and power than they can handle.
“We are not saying disband the police,” said the Rev. Lesley Jones, who leads Truth & Destiny Church in Mount Airy and serves as president of the Interdenominational Minesterial Alliance. “We are saying we can demilitarize. We can take funds, even in the police budget, and direct those funds … to community-oriented policing.”
Jones said she wants Mayor John Cranley to “defund the police,” echoing a national protest rallying cry. It means different things in different corners of the Black Lives Matter movement, from complete abolition to — as Jones suggested — redirecting police funds to other social services.
In Cincinnati, the police department accounts for 40% of spending from the city’s general fund. The $1 million increase for the coming fiscal year will mostly cover FOP contracts, which Hils said is necessary to keep pay competitive and attract qualified officers.
He also said he doesn’t believe the Cincinnati Police Department needs reform, and he praised the performance of Cincinnati officers during local protests.
“We stood the challenge during this unrest of being worth every penny,” he said. “No matter what else you have in this city, it will cease to exist or be able to be enjoyed without law and order. Whether you’re talking about the Reds, the Bengals, FC Cincinnati… All the cherished treasures of Cincinnati, the parks. None of those things can be enjoyed without law and order.”