Last fall and again in February 2021, the Charleston People’s Budget Coalition called for the public release of a detailed line-item budget from the Charleston Police Department (CPD). As we approach the summer of 2021, we are still fighting for transparency from one of the largest department budgets in the City.
In Charleston, spending on law enforcement dramatically outpaces that of community services such as housing, education, violence prevention, and other socio-economic programs. Out of the $271 million spent by the City of Charleston, $54 million, or about 20%, is funneled directly to CPD. Compare this to the $11 million budget on the Department of Recreation, or the $1 million budget on the Department of Housing and Community Development.
If the goal of Charleston’s public safety system is to keep the public safe, then it’s time for Charleston’s city leaders to rethink our system. The current budget priorities do not reflect the interests and needs of Black, brown, Indigenous, disabled, poor and working class people. Which poses the question, why do Charleston city leaders continue pouring resources into police instead of adequately investing in and supporting our communities?
To create true public safety, Charleston residents must first have total transparency of how their taxpayer dollars are spent. Second, we must begin to shift funding into holistic preventatives, rather than the traditional approach of criminalization. From here, we can begin building sustainable solutions to Charleston’s socio-economic issues.
It is clear that Charleston City Council and Mayor Tecklenburg continue to write blank checks to CPD. Charleston residents deserve accountability. That is why we have asked for the Budget Item Detail for each division under the Charleston Police Department for FY2020 and 2021.