Jersey City Ward E Councilman James Solomon says that the the current budget, which allocates $109.9 million for police salaries is “unacceptable” as it stands, prompting a sharp response from Mayor Steven Fulop and the head of one of the police unions.
“Jersey City’s future as a just, multi-racial and multi-cultural city depends on transforming our budget. The current budget is unacceptable. It spends the overwhelming majority of discretionary funds on public safety,” Solomon said in an email blast early this morning.
“It provides proverbial pennies for core social services and core city functions from city planning to mental health services to community led anti-violence efforts. It must change.”
Citing budget data provided by the city, Solomon notes that the total salary budget for 2020 is approximately $258 million, meaning that 43 percent goes towards the Jersey City Police Department and 75 percent goes towards public safety (which also includes the fire department and parking division).
Solomon also says that while he supports a strong police department, he would like to see more municipal funds allocated towards “community-led anti-violence initiatives,” a common theme for the national call to defund the police – a movement that has gained steam in light of the murder of George Floyd.
Additionally, the Downtown councilman points to the Newark City Council’s vote to redirect $15 million from their public safety budget towards community-based anti-violence efforts, further stating that Jersey City has 32.5 police officers for every 10,000 residents.
According to a Governing Magazine analysis of FBI data, the median average for U.S. cities with a population between 200,000 to 500,000 has 16.9 active officers for every 10,000 residents.
At last week’s Jersey City Council meeting, dozens of residents called on the governing body to defund the JCPD, even though there was no such item on the agenda and one was not introduced – though Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro said he was open to the idea.
The next day, Fulop indicated in an email blast that he did not support such an endeavor. This morning, his message stayed consistent when firing back at Solomon.
“In this instance James Solomon is heavy on platitudes based on politics but light on substance, details, or results. Councilman Solomon’s suggestion to defund the police of up to $15 million had no details when proposed because he knows that it would result in less walking posts in poorer communities and mass layoffs of the recently recruited young minority police officers whom happen to live in Jersey City,” the mayor told HCV.
“It is ironic that he is pushing policies that he knows would result in less safety for poorer communities being that he has shown little to no interest in police initiatives for 3 years on the council. This feels like Councilman Solomon is just playing politics with platitudes.”
Furthermore, Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association President Carmine Disbrow echoed what Fulop said last week.
“The battle cry for ‘defunding police’ is a dangerous one for communities like Jersey City where the cornerstone of effectively fighting crime has been community building. It also likely means laying off young police officers, the same men and women that are coming out of our neighborhoods and giving of themselves to make their city safer,” Disbrow stated.
“To be more clear, Councilman Solomon seems to miss the point that there is nothing about taking police officers out of the neighborhoods they come from, and where residents have asked for them to be, that is ‘anti-violence.’”
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Solomon and Fulop have traded words over public safety, engaging in some light verbal sparring late last month over the implementation of a civilian complaint review board.
Solomon’s entire email can be read here.