US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for NYPD to be defunded

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has expressed reservations about Joe Biden: Getty Images
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has expressed reservations about Joe Biden: Getty Images

The call to defund police departments in the wake of the George Floyd protests has support from a high-profile voice in the US House of Representatives.

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced her support for reducing and redirecting police department funds as a way to address systemic racism and excessive use of force in law enforcement agencies.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez expressed her support during a debate on New York Spectrum News 1.

"The reduction of our NYPD budget and defunding a $6 billion budget, that costs us books in the hands of our children and costs us very badly needed investment in NYCHA and public housing," Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez is running a primary campaign against challengers Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former financial journalist and Badrun Kahn, a community activist.

Activists protesting systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's killing have demanded that police departments are defunded and the money saved to be redirected to addressing other social programmes.

The argument they make is that by addressing underlying community issues, there would be fewer crimes of desperation and thus less need for police and fewer deaths caused by police encounters.

In Minneapolis, protesters shouted down Mayor Jacob Frey when he said he wouldn't commit to defunding the Minneapolis Police Department. During a visit to a demonstration, protesters chanted for him to leave when he refused to make the commitment.

In New York City, Ms Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of other progressive city council members have called on New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio to cut $1bn from the NYPD's $6bn budget.

However, Mr De Blasio refused the demand, claiming it would put New York City at risk.

"I do not believe it's a good idea to reduce the budget of the agency that's here to keep us safe," he said.

Mr De Blasio has released a list of planned police reforms for the NYPD, which includes the repeal of Bill 50a, - which keeps police misconduct records out of the public record - as well as a shift of some funds from the NYPD toward social services, NYPD vendor enforcement and bringing "community voices" into the NYPD's leadership.

Earlier in the protests, the NYPD police union doxxed Mr De Blasio's daughter in a Twitter post that included her home address.

In addition to defunding the police, Ms Ocasio-Cortez also called for the demilitarization of police forces by reducing the amount of military equipment departments can obtain and for ending qualified immunity for officers that protects them for prosecution of crimes committed in the course of their work. She also called for a ban on chokeholds, such as the one that killed Mr Floyd.

She also tied the US's expansive military budget to issues with US law enforcement, suggesting it needed cut as well as police funding.

"We would not be giving local police departments who are undertrained a tank if we didn't give the military too much money to have extra damn tanks lying around to begin with," she said.

In Minnesota - the state where Mr Floyd was killed - US Rep Ilhan Omar called for the Minneapolis Police Department to be disbanded outright, claiming the law enforcement agency was "beyond reform."

President Donald Trump has jumped on the calls to defund the police as an entryway for attacking his presumed opponent in the 2020 US election Joe Biden.

"Sleepy Joe Biden and the Radical Left Democrats want to 'DEFUND THE POLICE,'" Mr Trump wrote in a tweet. "I want great and well paid LAW ENFORCEMENT. I want LAW & ORDER!"

Mr Biden's campaign has not made a public statement regarding defunding the police.

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