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Mayor Lightfoot's Budget Proposal Calls For Cuts To Police Budget, But Mayor Remains Against Defunding Police

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In Mayor Lori Lightfoot's budget proposal calls for the Chicago Police Department to cut a big chunk of its own budget.

According to CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov's calculations, the CPD would lose almost $59 million in funding. But the mayor said that would be achieved by not filling hundreds of vacant jobs in the department.

Those calling for the defunding of police think it is not enough. The mayor said deeper cuts to the CPD are not an option.

"Our police officers are not our enemies," Mayor Lightfoot said in announcing the budget Wednesday.

It was a matter-of-fact way for Mayor Lightfoot to explain why she is not defunding Chicago's Police Department – something activists have been demanding for months.

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But the mayor is not increasing the CPD's budget either. She wants to eliminate 614 vacant department jobs.

But she also wants to put an additional $5 million toward violence protection and mental health programs.

"We cannot responsibly enact any policies that make communities less safe," Mayor Lightfoot said.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) agrees - which is saying something, considering his tense relationship with the mayor.

"We can't just, you know, keep hiring police, but at the same time, right now is not the time to defund the police," Beale said.

The reason, Beale said, is the violent crime surge in many Chicago neighborhoods. Beale and five other aldermen want the mayor to invest $50 million in a violence prevention program called Chicago CRED, or Create Real Economic Destiny, which he said has helped cut crime in his ward in Roseland by 33 percent.

Is this a realistic ask right now?

"Absolutely," Beale said. "We cannot afford not to do this, because if we roll this out and crime is down, we won't need as many police."

Beale believes that money could come from the CPD's overtime budget or illegal gun and drug seizures.

Currently, it is not on the mayor's radar. But launching an alternative response program is. That program will send a mental health professional, paramedic, and crisis intervention-trained police officer to certain 911 calls.

One non-partisan budget watchdog group said the mayor had some hard choices to make.

"This is something that wasn't created by Mayor Lightfoot," said Lawrence Msall of the Civic Federation. "We're all paying more taxes to pay for past debt of this budget, so it's a balancing act."

The mayor mentioned the city hopes to save $19 million on what it budgets for settlements and judgements, thanks to new search warrant policies and training. The new policies, a response to the pattern of wrong raids uncovered by CBS 2 Investigators.

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"I also reject the false narrative that it's either fund the police or fund communities," Lightfoot said. "We must and can do both."

Also of note is that while the Police Department budget would be $50 million less next year, the newly-formed Office of Public Safety Administration will get an additional $105 million. That office is supposed to streamline CPD, Fire Department, and emergency management administrative functions.

On one final note, the mayor mentioned the city hopes to save $19 million dollars on what it budgets for settlements and judgements, thanks to new search warrant policies and training.

The new policies are a response to the pattern of wrong raids uncovered by Dave Savini and the CBS 2 Investigators.

But taxpayers could still be on the hook for multiple million-dollar lawsuits on bad raids that happened even after the new policy went into effect, and many others before.

As to aldermen's reaction to the budget proposal, it is difficult to get a good read due to the virtual Zoom element of City Council meetings these days and the inability to stop aldermen and ask them easily. But Kozlov said she expects a lot of debate on many issues, including CPD funding and property taxes at the very least.

The first budget hearing is Monday.

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