Many California cities have used their COVID relief money to bolster their police forces, according to a report by The Guardian. The US bailout has allocated $350 billion to state and local governments through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program/
The Treasury Department said the money can replace lost public sector revenuerespond to the far-reaching negative economic and public health impacts of the pandemic, provide a bounty for essential workers, and invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
Some of California’s largest cities have allocated a large portion of their funds to law enforcement. For example, San Francisco received $312 million and gave $153 million to the police and $41 million to the sheriff’s office, which accounted for 62% of the funds. Los Angeles spent about 50% of COVID relief money on police. Although Long Beach does not have a full breakdown of how their money was spent, officials said a majority of the money went to the police.
In Fresno, officials used the majority of their COVID relief funds for police and to pay the salaries of city employees. The amount the city spent on police was double what officials allocated for “COVID testing, contact tracing, small business grants, child care vouchers, transitional housing and Combined Small Business Grants”.
City officials in Oakland and Anaheim admitted to using the money as “revenue replacement” and allocating the relief money to the general fund.
Authorities have defended their decision to use the money to bolster their police, saying the funds were intended. They said the pandemic forced them to pay higher overtime and the money prevented potential layoffs that would have made it harder to enforce COVID policies.
Not everyone is in favor of the money being used for the police.
“It was called the ‘American bailout’, but you’re telling me what had to be saved was the police department?” mentioned Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, pastor and activist at Skid Row in Los Angeles. “The city’s knee-jerk reaction is always to use law enforcement to respond to everything…and the police force just keeps getting bigger.”