Video footage of Memphis, Tennessee, police officers beating Tyre Nichols, a Black man who later died of the injuries he sustained during his arrest, prompted discussion about whether federal reforms of law enforcement are needed.
During a Jan. 29 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd quizzed U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, about what legislative action he would consider appropriate following Nichols’ death.
Jordan did not answer that question directly. Instead, he blamed disparaging rhetoric about law enforcement for what he called a shortage of “good people” applying to become police officers.
“We shouldn’t have this whole attitude about defund the police,” Jordan said. “I got a list of 20 jurisdictions that defunded the police to the tune of over $1 billion total. That’s a problem when you’re trying to attract the best to protect our communities.”
But Jordan’s list was based on proposed 2021 budget cuts — some of which were scaled back before the budgets were adopted and some of which were reversed the following budget year.
Calls for defunding the police followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Some advocates want to eliminate police departments, but “defunding” also can refer to revisiting the functions of police departments and redirecting some of those departments’ funding to social services.
Jordan’s office provided us with the list he referred to, which his staff compiled based on 2020 news coverage of proposed fiscal year 2021 funding decreases for police departments. The list included 21 cities — from Austin, Texas, to San Francisco — that proposed annual budget cuts for their respective police departments, totaling $1.71 billion.
The cities on the list initially intended to reduce their fiscal year 2021 police budgets in response to nationwide protests against racial injustice and economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, lawmakers in New York City agreed to cut $1 billion in police spending — the largest cut on Jordan’s list. But the final, approved budget included cuts of $317 million, less than half the proposed amount. That move alone significantly changes Jordan’s math of a $1-billion-plus total in funding cuts.
In Austin, officials cut about one-third of the police department’s fiscal year 2021 budget. But by fiscal year 2022, the city’s budget included a record $442 million for the police, and funding increased even more for fiscal year 2023.
Baltimore; Portland, Oregon; and Minneapolis, all of which were included on Jordan’s list, sheared millions of dollars from their respective fiscal year 2021 police budgets and later increased those budgets in fiscal year 2022.
Cities from New York to Los Angeles backtracked on their push to slash police budgets because of political pressure and rising crime rates, according to NBC News.
Jordan said 20 jurisdictions “defunded the police to the tune of over $1 billion total.”
The list he cited, compiled by his staff, included 21 cities that proposed reducing their annual police budgets in fiscal year 2021 by a collective $1.71 billion. All of the cities on his list had proposed 2021 budget cuts that redirected some money away from police departments.
But at least 14 of the cities scaled back the proposed cuts before the budgets were adopted or reversed course the following budget year. One of the largest proposed cuts on the list, in New York City, was reduced from $1 billion to $317 million before the budget passed.
Jordan’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.