Amid local and nationwide Black Lives Matter movements, the City of Binghamton acquired $481,285 for the Binghamton Police Department (BPD), according to a news release on July 20 from the Office of Mayor Richard David.
The sum came from two organizations; $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and $231,285 from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
The grant from COPS will allow BPD to fund two new positions and partially cover the three years’ salary of two current patrol officers. Officers for the new positions will either be hired for the 2021 Broome County Law Enforcement Academy or immediately if an intra-agency transfer is available, according to the news release.
The grant from DCJS will be used for training and overtime costs as well as to fund two public safety positions: a civilian crime analyst and a BPD field intelligence officer. Binghamton qualified for the DCJS grant —Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) Initiative—because of its high rate of firearm-related violence as reported by the DCJS. According to the DCJS, the initiative is a New York state strategy to reduce gun violence in areas with a disproportionately higher amount.
“The initiative targets 17 counties outside of New York City that report 85 percent of the violent crime outside of the five boroughs, providing state funding to 20 police departments, district attorneys’ offices, probation departments and sheriffs’ offices,” the DCJS website reads. “The funding is used for equipment, overtime, training, technical support and personnel, such as crime analysts and prosecutors.”
The DCJS provided a Crime, Arrest and Firearm activity report of all 20 police departments included in its list. According to the report, BPD had 13.8 percent of violent crimes in 2019 to be firearm-related, five of which were aggravated assault and the other four were robbery. The BPD ranked 16th in most violent crimes with firearm relation in 2019, with the 20th being the Kingston Police Department at zero percent in 2019 and the first being the Rochester Police Department with 30.6 percent.
According to David, the new jobs supported by the grant money will focus on crime prevention and community policing.
“Community policing is a pillar of 21st-century public safety strategies and a key tool in building positive relationships in our neighborhoods,” David said. “Partnerships take time and resources, and these federal and state funds will assist in expanding innovative community policing efforts across the city of Binghamton.”
This is not the first grant that BPD has qualified for. In Sept. 2019, BPD received an armored tank called the BearCat G3 with a State and Municipal (SAM) Facilities Grant.
However, some Binghamton University students believe this money could be utilized in other ways to prevent crime. Josh Hernandez, a senior majoring in English, said that building a relationship with the community rather than policing it may be more beneficial.
“I’m not overly familiar with the specific needs of the [BPD],” Hernandez wrote in an email. “But, in light of recent police shootings and the national tension surrounding police brutality, I feel that the money may have been better spent trying to establish and/or improve upon community relations.”
Cate Reynolds, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said there are other ways to prevent crime besides community policing in specific neighborhoods.
“BPD already has a large budget, and we shouldn’t be funding an institutionalized power that disproportionately affects communities of color,” Reynolds said.
Liam Smith, a senior majoring in psychology, wants to see funding go to institutions that can help prevent crime instead of institutions that deal with the aftermath.
“I’d rather see the funding go toward mental health services or the school district,” Smith wrote in an email. “But it seems the city was only able to qualify for the grant if the money went to the police department.”
Christina Shin, a senior majoring in psychology, agrees that mental health services are a priority and should receive funding the way the police department does.
“While I guess it’s a good thing they’re aiming to put this money toward advancing public safety, I can’t help but think about how that much money could also be put toward other areas, such as community education or mental health,” Shin said. “I personally don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around how the police can obtain this much money when there are other areas of the public that could definitely benefit off of it.”
Binghamton Police Chief Joseph T. Zikuski believes that the grant will ensure public safety.
“For its size, the [BPD] is a state and national leader in progressive policing strategies that rely on data, technology and, most importantly, community policing,” Zikuski said.