The Blue Budget: What Cities Spend on Police

Cops may get too much money. But what they get varies widely.

Mother Jones illustration; Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times/AP

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George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis nearly two months ago sparked a national conversation about defunding the police, an idea once considered niche and radical. Police spending may be too high. But what cities spend varies widely.

We looked at city budgets in nine cities using the Action and Race Economy Center’s budget tool to understand what share of their general funds go to police operating budgets. While there’s wide variation in how much cities spend on police, most dedicate between 25 percent to 40 percent of their budgets to policing. Some cities, such as Los Angeles, allocate nearly quarter of their general funds to police budgets. Yet even though New York spends only 8 percent of its general funds on policing, it adds up to $5.2 billion, nearly twice what LA spends.


Even as crime rates have declined in the last 30 years, police budgets have risen in many cities. We looked at historical data on police budgets from 1977 to 2017 compiled by Lincoln Institute of Land Policy to look at per capita spending on police budgets. While the trends between cities still vary, the average share of per capita spending going to police budgets across 150 cities rose from 6.6 percent in 1977 to 7.7 percent in 2017.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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