The mayors of Raleigh and Durham are speaking out against a proposed state Senate bill that would effectively punish municipalities for reducing police department budgets. 

The bill, introduced Monday as Senate Bill 100, threatens to slash state funding for municipalities that cut police funding by more than 1 percent. 

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and Durham Mayor Steve Schewel were quick to condemn the bill, which is also opposed by the North Carolina League of Municipalities. 

“In Durham were working on developing alternative responses, for example, to mental health crises that may come into our 911 system and we want to put more resources there,” Schewel told the INDY Tuesday. “Those kinds of decisions need to be local decisions.”

The bill is sponsored by Henderson County Republican Chuck Edwards who said in a press conference Monday that the legislation was in direct response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and calls to defund the police. 

“The financial dismantling has now begun,” Edwards said, claiming crime rates were on the rise as a result. 

That hasn’t been the case in the Triangle, though. While Schewel says reappropriating police funds may be a possibility in the future, last budget cycle Durham voted to increase its police budget by 5 percent. 

This summer, the Raleigh Police Department faced backlash from the community following its use of expired tear gas on protesters and the subsequent issuance of curfews to curtail Black Lives Matter demonstrations. A few months ago, Raleigh Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown announced she would retire this spring. 

Raleigh hasn’t discussed reducing its police budget, but Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin told the INDY it’s the council’s “legal duty to our citizens to balance our budget every year.”

“I’m hopeful that the NCGA recognizes this important role that cities play and re-thinks this bill,” Baldwin said. “I’m afraid that there could be a great deal of unintended consequences otherwise.”

Raleigh activist Kerwin Pittman, who was one of the most visible organizers of protests this summer, called the proposed bill “ludicrous.”

“Not only will this bill begin to unravel the very fabric of democracy in North Carolina, but also in turn punish different municipalities and counties for listening to the very people that elected them to their positions of power to speak for the people,” Pittman told the INDY. “If this bill is passed, this will be the beginning of traveling down a slippery slope to pure dictatorship and anyone who backs this bill doesn’t stand on democracy nor believe in facilitating the will of the people.”

A draft of the bill has been referred to the Senate’s Rules and Operations committee. Read more about the bill here.

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