As protests continue, calls for the defunding of the Sacramento Police Department have carried into the end of the summer.
Nevertheless, since the immediate aftermath of the George Floyd protests earlier in the season, the city police budget has instead increased by $2.9 million, including an extra $7.9 million spent on labor and replacement police vehicles.
That figure may also seem small when compared with the proposed sheriff’s office funding cost of around $276 million in this year’s recommended annual budget proposal, with the office receiving a portion of the budget more than three times the proposed budget of every other county office combined.
Anger over the budget led to a protest outside of the county administration building last month, attended by several local social justice organizations and City Councilwoman-elect Katie Valenzuela.
“We are only one paycheck, loss of a job, getting sick, [et cetera] away from having to be unhoused and then to have to deal with your tent being burned or harassed by people who we are paying exorbitant amounts of money and pension funds to,” said Square One Project Director Kula Koenig of United Way California Capital Region. “That is not the society that we want to live in.”
In addition to the largest share of the county budget, the sheriff’s office has also absorbed an overwhelming majority of the county’s coronavirus relief fund. When the county received $181 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, $104 million of it – around 55% of the total county relief fund and nearly 70% of the approximately $148 million that has been spent thus far – reportedly went the sheriff’s department.
CapRadio reports that the police did not receive more money than is in their regular budget and the money from the general county budget that would regularly have gone to the sheriff’s office was subsequently freed for use elsewhere. The move will, however, force coronavirus relief projects to compete with other services for general budget funds.
The major allocation of relief funding to the sheriff’s office also stands in contrast with the usage of relief fund money by other counties such as LA, which has notably invested $656 million in CARES Act funds, over half of the total $1.22 billion county fund, into testing and contact tracing.
Comparatively, contract tracing investments made up less than $10,000 of Sacramento County CARES Act funding, or around half of one one-hundredths of one percent of the county’s total relief funding.
Sierra Health Foundation CEO Chet Hewitt criticized the move in an interview with the Sacramento Observer and referred to the usage of relief funds for purposes other than relief as ‘malfeasant’.
“[…] this money is designed to avert a public health crisis due to COVID-19 community transmission — the spread across communities — and it supports the County’s ability to meet the needs of its citizens,” he said. “This shows that the money is really being spent to support the public system, not the public.”