MANCHESTER, N.H. – Outside Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) meeting, a group of activists gathered holding signs asking for the defunding of the Manchester Police Department.
The activists expressed concern with the acceptance of a $1.25 million grant that allowed the city to hire 10 more police officers, following the hiring of 15 new police officers between 2018 and 2020.
Police defunding movements around the country have sought the transfer of funding for police departments into funding for other social programs that could serve area residents. The activists outside City Hall agreed on that sentiment, although varied on why they agreed.
For Brandon Lemay, there was the concern that taxpayer money would eventually be needed to retain the police officers once the grant funding runs out, as well as concerns he has heard from friends from Manchester’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Community and the unfairness of placing police officers in situations better suited for other types of municipal employees.
“I think social workers make the best social workers. Policing is a really hard job and the burden of social working shouldn’t fall upon them,” he said.
Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray feared that growing the Manchester Police Department was not needed given the fact that Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig has stated that crime is going down in the city, and that it could potentially be counterproductive.
“I think the presence of a police officer in any situation is going to escalate anxiety and lead to an increase in violent reactions,” she said. “There are so many other issues we have here in Manchester, lack of housing, drug addiction and more, it doesn’t make sense to put more money into police when crime rates have actually been going down.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Office of Mayor Craig has not provided a response to the protest.
Last year, Craig and former Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano disagreed with the police defunding movement, stating that many of the movements demands regarding police reform had been met in Manchester without resorting to transferring money out of the police budget.
Members of the BMA concurred with that sentiment as of last summer.
As of March 2021, the Manchester Police Department reported having 238 police officers, with a goal of 267 by 2030.