How Much Do U.S. Cities Spend On Policing?

How much of the general fund allocations of cities is spent on the police department?

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The trend of police departments receiving shares in discretionary funds way beyond what is needed to keep communities safe continues among U.S. cities for the year 2020, data from the Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD Action) reveals.


New York City recorded one of the highest police expenditures in 2020, reaching a massive USD 5.61 billion. However, this is only 7.7 percent of their colossal budget.

For other cities, however, police spending can account for as high as a quarter of the general expenditure which is the case for Los Angeles (25.5 %). Cities like Atlanta (30.3%) and Oakland (44.4%) recorded even higher percentages.

While the latest data available for Minneapolis — the epicentre of unrest in the on-going Black Lives matter protests — is only for 2017, police spending in the city already accounted for 35.8% of the general fund at the time.

According to CPD Action, the differences in how city budgets are structured makes it meaningless to directly compare these percentages.

Nonetheless, one thing is for certain. These allocations are astronomical, considering that the general fund expenditure is also used to support other city services like law enforcement, planning, community development, and administrative support.

Looking at how much is spent on policing per person and we can better see how heavy-handed policing is across major cities in the U.S.

Baltimore, notorious for its routine discrimination against black people as well as brutality and misconduct recorded the highest police expenditure per capita at USD 904.

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While as previously mentioned, the police spending is only around seven percent of their discretionary funds, the amount spent per person in New York is also extremely high at USD 672.


Collectively, CDP Action estimates that the United States currently spends USD 100 billion for the police.

Even before the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, calls for the prioritisation of mental health services, youth programming, and better infrastructure are consistent across the jurisdictions of the U.S.

The nation, now being awakened by the reality of the police being practically systems of mass criminalisation and discrimination, only intensified these demands along with the call to defund the police.

In response, some cities have already expressed their intent to make changes in the police department.

Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to cut the funding of the New York Police Department and boost social services.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis City Council recently voted for the disbandment of their police department in favour of a model centred on community-based strategies.

“We committed to dismantling policing as we know it in the city of Minneapolis and to rebuild with our community a new model of public safety that actually keeps our community safe,” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said in an interview with CNN.

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