Discussions about policing in the U.S. have been reignited after the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police. The FedEx driver and father of a 4-year-old son had been beaten to death following a traffic stop in early January. Nichols' funeral was held yesterday with Vice President Kamala Harris in attendance and Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.
Five officers have been indicted for second-degree murder. All five were, like their victim, Black. Organizations of Black police officers have stated that racism in policing was not a matter of the officers' race but of police culture and were "baked into the system". Changing that system was a big demand of protest groups that formed after the death of George Floyd in 2020, but when it comes to the high budgets police departments receive - something that activists wanted to see dispersed to other groups - only a few changes were made. As seen in data by The Center for Popular Democracy from 2020 and the Action Center on Race and the Economy (latest available), many police departments in the United States continue to receive very generous budgets.
According to the data, 65 out of the nation's 300 largest cities spend 40 percent or more of their general budgets on policing. Memphis is among them at exactly 40 percent spent on the police department - or $281 million. The budget share for the police is even higher in Milwaukee, Phoenix or Oakland, for example.
The country's biggest cities on average spend a smaller share on policing - those with general budgets of more than $5 billion allocate on average 13 percent. The exception is Los Angeles, which spends 23 percent. Smaller cities spend on average 29 percent of their expenses budget on the police for structural reasons, but there are also those which spend less, for example Boulder, Colo. (9 percent), Sunnyvale, Calif. (10 percent) or Waterbury, Conn. (8 percent). A larger city spending below average on the police is Jacksonville, Fla., at just 3 percent of its $1.4 billion budget.