As Atlanta Nears Adopting Budget, Mayor Commits To Funding Police

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says it’s important for police officers to have a decent salary and be able to afford a home in the city where they work.

Andrea Smith / Associated PRess file

As activists in the city, and across the country, call for defunding the police, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she won’t in the city of Atlanta.

Some activists want to completely disband police. Others want to reallocate some funds from police departments to other services such as mental health programs and education. 

Protests across the country have happened in hundreds of cities, including Atlanta, against police violence after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And calls have reemerged to defund police. This week, the phrase “defund police” was scrawled in large yellow block letters on the street in front of police headquarters in downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta is set to adopt a budget this month for fiscal year 2021. In the proposed budget, police services make up about one-third of the city’s $670 million general fund, the largest share of the fund. 

“The bulk of our budget goes to salary, it goes to pension, workers’ compensation and capital costs,” said the mayor during a weekly call with City Council.

She says it’s important for police officers to have a decent salary and be able to afford a home in the city where they work. She also says pay is important for recruiting officers. The starting salary for a police officer in Atlanta is $48,500.  

 The mayor says she’ll divert resources from the Department of Corrections to social services.

“More than a year ago, I signed legislation to begin reforming our approach to public safety through a collaborative process to close and reimagine ACDC [Atlanta City Detention Center] as a resource for empowering our communities,” the mayor said in a press release Friday.

Corrections takes up a much smaller percentage of the proposed city budget.

Originally, the Department of Corrections was nearly $19 million in the proposed 2021 budget. On Friday, the mayor announced that she’s added an amendment to the budget to slash funding to corrections to about $4 million, making it less than 1% of the city’s proposed budget.

Most of that money in the original proposal will be moved to the Office of Constituent Services, according to the mayor’s office.

The city is set to adopt the 2021 budget this month. The fiscal year budget starts July 1.