The claim: There’s a connection between defunding St. Louis police and various shootings
Is violence increasing in St. Louis due to a push to defund the police?
That’s the claim from a May 4 Facebook post from the page Survive the Streets: A page for cops. It includes two images of newscasts from different outlets — neither image is dated — and implies that defunding the St. Louis police department is connected to 20 recent shootings.
The top image is labeled as FOX 2 in St. Louis , with a photograph of Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and a quote that reads, “Today’s decision to defund the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is historic. It marks a new future for our city.”
The lower image bears a logo from CBS 4 in St. Louis, with a headline that reads, “20 shot, 3 killed since Friday night” and a map labeling the location of each shooting.
The caption of the post reads, “Don’t think I really need to caption this one…”
Comments on the post show other users clearly grasped the implied connection, expressing concerns about the city’s safety with a reduced police presence.
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But the policing budget cuts have not been approved yet, much less put in effect. That timeline contradicts the Facebook post’s implication that the initial vote to defund the city’s police department is connected to various shootings.
USA TODAY has reached out to the poster for comment.
St. Louis policing budget cuts haven’t gone into effect yet
The idea of defunding or divesting from police departments picked up traction following a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, which were sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.
There is no universal definition for “defunding,” as some politicians and advocacy groups use it to reference reducing funding, while others want to abolish the system of policing in the U.S. entirely.
In St. Louis, the “defunding” includes redirecting money to other social programs and eliminating vacancies within the police department.
On April 29, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment approved a spending plan for the city of St. Louis’ 2022 fiscal year — which begins July 1 — and includes amendments to reduce police funding.
In keeping with her campaign promises of reallocating police funds to social services, Mayor Tishaura Jones voted in favor of the proposed budget.
The Board of Aldermen now needs to vote on the budget. Nick Dunne, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said the board’s Ways and Means Committee will be voting on the budget May 19.
If it passes, the budget will then move on to the full board for approval.
The $1.15 billion city spending plan would cut roughly $4 million from the city’s police budget and redirect the funds to four different programs, as well as eliminating 98 vacant officer positions. The cut amounts to about 2% of the department’s originally proposed 2022 budget of $171 million.
Roughly $1.5 million of the redirected funding will go to the Affordable Housing Commission, and $1 million will go to a victim support services program. Another $1 million will go to the city’s Health & Human Services Department to hire 15 caseworkers to assist the homeless population, and $500,000 will go toward an affirmative litigation unit.
The budget would eliminate 98 positions that are currently vacant — a number Jones said she reached with the input of Police Chief John Hayden — and no current police officers will lose their jobs. There will still be 50 remaining vacancies.
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Bush’s April 29 statement was made in support of Jones passing the budget amendments, which reallocated the $4 million from the police budget.
“Today’s decision to defund the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is historic. It marks a new future for our city,” the statement reads. “I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Mayor Tishaura Jones — and I commend her for her incredible leadership with today’s decision.”
Connecting two newscasts
The Facebook post’s screenshots connect the budget action to reduce police funding to a specific series of shootings in St. Louis.
While both newscast screenshots have the same timestamp in the bottom right corner, there is also a 10-degree temperature difference between the two images, raising the question of whether or not the screenshots came from the same day.
The top image of a quote from Bush, which includes the logo of the local FOX 2 station, is likely from April 29 when she made her statement.
The bottom image includes a logo tying it to CBS 4 in St. Louis. USA TODAY contacted the outlet to confirm the authenticity of the screenshot but has not heard back.
Archived clips from other CBS 4 newscasts, like this one, show the style in the post’s map is consistent with graphics the station uses. But USA TODAY was unable to confirm the date the segment aired, or if it is legitimate.
Fatal shootings have been on the rise in St. Louis this year. The city’s homicide rate is up nearly 40% from last year, with 72 homicides so far this year, according to the St. Louis Metro Police Department’s UCR Homicide Analysis.
But it’s not reasonable to connect a series of shootings to the recent move to lower funding to the city’s police department because the budget cuts have not taken effect, or even been approved.
Our rating: Missing context
The claim that there’s a connection between defunding the St. Louis police and various shootings is MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional information it is misleading. It’s not reasonable to connect discussions of budget cuts that haven’t yet passed to incidents of crime. The budget cuts to the police department have not been fully approved, nor have they gone into effect yet, making it impossible for the cuts to be connected to the shootings. Additionally, no currently employed police officers will be losing their jobs — the cuts eliminate 98 vacant positions and redirect funding to other social support programs.
Our fact-check sources:
- KSDK-TV, April 29, 98 vacant police openings eliminated in latest St. Louis budget
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 29, Proposed St. Louis spending plan cuts $4M to police, removes 98 vacant officer jobs
- KSDK News on YouTube, April 29, 98 vacant police openings eliminated in latest St. Louis budget
- St. Louis, Missouri Government, accessed May 18, About Comptroller Green
- St. Louis, Missouri Government, accessed May 18, President of the Board of Aldermen
- St. Louis, Missouri Government, April 29, Mayor Tishaura O. Jones Passes FY2022 Budget with Amendments, Redirects Excess Police Staffing Budget to Diversion and Support Programs
- Rep. Cori Bush, April 29, Congresswoman Cori Bush’s Statement on Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
- KMOV St. Louis on YouTube, May 11, Suspected pipe bombs found during traffic stop in Hillsboro
- St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, May 18, 2021 UCR Homicide Analysis
- KMOV St. Louis on YouTube, May 4, News 4 Afternoon Update: May 4, 2021
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