RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Across the country, there’s a growing call to defund the police. It’s an action that even has support in Virginia’s capital city.
Councilman Michael Jones of Richmond’s 9th District says he supports defunding the Richmond Police Department, in addition, to reviewing the way the city does public safety.
“Right now, we need to be safe from the individuals who keep us safe,” Jones said to 8News. “When I talk about defunding, I talk about reallocating funding because when you look at where we fund that tells you what our focus is on.”
Jones says his office is reviewing the entire police budget.
“We want to look and see what’s on paper, where monies are going and what dollars we can back out,” Jones said.
Specifically, Jones says he would like to see funding reallocated to reinvest in and support African-American people, African-American organizations, African-American creatives, and African-American businesses in Richmond. This includes giving money to non-profits, community gardens, among others, to give life and add vibrancy to minority communities.
Councilman Jones also mentioned putting more counselors in schools instead of police officers.
“I want to make sure that that funding doesn’t go to potholes and paving, but we begin to reinvest in the communities that have been impacted by over-policing, by police aggression, and by tactics that are not warranted,” Jones said.
Last year, Jones was the only opponent on city council in regard to giving VCU Police power and jurisdiction expansion into Downtown Richmond.
“We, as council, have to have a discussion on how we view and see public safety. This is not about monuments and renaming streets,” Jones said. “We are here right now because black men, black women, have lost their lives at the hand of police.”
8News contacted other council members to see if they support defunding police.
In a statement, Councilwoman Kim Gray said, “We need serious reforms. Not lip service. That term means different things to different people but I am not in favor of eliminating police.”
Councilwoman Ellen Robertson added, “I need more information. Richmond needs a police department. I am open to exploring concerns and addressing them.”
Mayor Levar Stoney’s Office told 8News, “The City of Richmond, like other municipalities and cities across the country, will conduct a thorough review of public safety policies and practices before making any decisions.”
Richmond Police’s budget is nearly $100 million dollars ($96,371,697 approximately) for Fiscal Year 2021. That’s after the budget was amended as a result of COVID-19.
Fiscal Year 2020 was approved for $96,104,528.