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Cities that ‘defund the police’ would be punished under new NC bill

Cities that ‘defund the police’ would be punished under new NC bill

by LUCILLE SHERMAN | The News & Observer  |  Published on February 24, 2021

Republican lawmakers want the state to discourage local governments in North Carolina from cutting funding for law enforcement.

North Carolina state Sen. Chuck Edwards unveiled legislation Monday that would reduce state funding to any local government that cuts spending for its police or sheriff’s office. The goal is to make it more difficult for local officials to heed calls to “defund the police” and shift money to social services and other programs.

Edwards, who lives in Flat Rock, said the bill was inspired in part by the loss of officers in the Asheville Police Department in recent months, which he attributed to a “lack of public support” for police.

In a news conference, Edwards referred to the protests last summer following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when activists made calls to “defund the police,” which has a variety of meanings.

In some cases, defunding the police can mean reallocating law enforcement funding to other agencies. In others, it can mean abolishing law enforcement altogether, The News & Observer previously reported.

Supporters of redirecting funding away from police say having an armed officer respond to incidents like a person in a mental health crisis can escalate the situation.

In January, the Minneapolis City Council proposed to replace the city’s police department with a department aimed at providing a “comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement,” The StarTribune reported earlier this month.

“Regretfully, this sentiment which is now turned into violent behavior, is no longer found just on the streets of Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia,” Edwards said. “We’re seeing radical extremists launch vicious attacks on enforcing our laws right here in North Carolina.”

Edwards’ bill, Senate Bill 100, would apply to cities, towns or counties that cut salaries or other expenses for law enforcement by more than 1% of the government’s budget that year.

“The Police Funding Protection Act seeks to encourage cities and counties not to defund their law enforcement agencies,” said Sen. Danny Britt, a Republican from Lumberton who is co-sponsoring the legislation.

The N.C. Police Benevolent Association issued a press release Monday afternoon expressing support for the bill that would protect law enforcement funding, saying Asheville was a “catalyst” for the legislation when it voted to reduce the police department’s budget by $770,000 in September.

“This legislation is a necessary step to prevent elected officials from making harmful decisions that fail to support officers and their agencies,” NC Division President Randy Byrd said in a statement. “When you don’t support these officers and their agencies, it can lead to officers leaving in unprecedented numbers and violent crime increasing.”

Another bill filed Monday, Senate Bill 101, would require sheriffs to cooperate with the federal government if they arrest someone without proper identification and who has a detainer request from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed similar legislation in 2019.

Edwards also said sheriffs have refused to cooperate with ICE, which he alleged has caused an increase in violent crime.

Britt also sponsored legislation requiring that sheriffs cooperate with ICE in 2019, though it was the House version that ultimately passed the legislature and was vetoed.

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