Wilmington mayor talks defunding police: “I’m more about police reform”

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In response to the killing of George Floyd and other police related incidents around the country, some protesters are calling on leaders to defund police departments. But, what does that mean?

The idea is to essentially take some, or all, of the money budgeted for police each year and put it back into the community.

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But local leaders warn that could be dangerous.

“We need a police department, there’s no doubt about it,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “When people are calling you from a domestic violence issue, to a robbery issue, to an active shooter in a particular community, how do you respond to that if you don’t have a police department?”

The argument of defunding police departments has gained popularity among demonstrators around the country and right here in the Cape Fear.

In downtown Wilmington, signs can be seen saying, “Defund K-K-Kops, Fund Our Communities,” “Police Reform Now,” “Arrest That Officer” and more.

Last week, the democratic nominee for North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture tweeted that the Raleigh Police budget should be used to fund transit, social workers, affordable housing and more.

“We’ve heard this talk about defunding the police,” Saffo said. “I’m more about police reform, any kind of reform that we can do to improve the relationship between the department and the citizens, I’m always up for, my door is always open.”

The Wilmington Police Department accounts for more than $36 million of the city’s approximate $200 million budget. Mayor Saffo says police respond to 179,000 calls for service each year.

He invites any concerned citizens to reach out to him or visit the department’s training facility.

“We built that facility with public space so the public can come in and talk to our police officers, look and see how they train,” Saffo said.

He also says the department was overhauled when he was first elected in 2003, but he and the department are always open to ideas and suggestions.