The new city budget eliminates seven positions in the police department. Is Ann Arbor defunding the police?

“We don’t look at it that way,” replies city administrator Tom Crawford.

“If you’re looking to reduce the general fund budget, safety services are where you are going to need to look,” says mayor Christopher Taylor. That’s because the AAPD accounts for $31 million of the $118 million general fund, and the next biggest slice, $17 million, goes to the fire department. The fire department lost a single position.

Crawford explains that the city already faced a structural deficit of $2.8 million. That could be covered by drawing on reserves, but with the pandemic shutdowns, parking revenue is down by half.

Police chief Mike Cox won’t have to lay anyone off. Though his department nominally has 156 employees, including 126 sworn officers, “a lot people have retired and left, and we haven’t filled some of those spots,” he explains. “We are down at least twelve to thirteen officers right now.”

Most are departing because they’re “hitting the eligibility point” for retirement, the chief says. But some are just fed up. “This is a really, really tough time to be in this field,” he says, with officers facing “criticism all the time from all walks of life.”

With his department cut far more than any other, Cox concedes the budget doesn’t “look fair.” But he acknowledges it’s based on the “city’s priorities” and “not my call.” And he’s hoping that “the city rebounds in a really robust way, and we are able to refund.”

It could happen–but not soon. “As the pandemic recedes, we will be looking at where it makes sense to add resources,” says Crawford. But projections are “that we’re going to take three to five years to really come back.”