Dear Members of the Finance Committee,
My name is [YOUR NAME], and I am a resident of Benton County. This past week, our nation has been gripped by protests calling for rapid and meaningful reevaluation of the role of policing in our communities and an end to endemic police brutality against Black Americans. I believe that changes will begin by defunding law enforcement and investing in community programs and infrastructure.
Millions of dollars every year have been funneled toward law enforcement and mass incarceration systems that are harming our communities more than helping them. Benton County’s total budget for 2019 was roughly $80 million. Almost 41 percent of that budget was spent on law enforcement activities, while less than 2 percent was allocated to environmental services, building safety, emergency services, child support, drug control, veteran services, & public safety services combined.
The funds that Benton County has budgeted for law enforcement and incarceration should be redirected into COVID-19 relief, affordable housing, education, healthcare, community centers, addiction treatment, and community-led organizations. While Benton County has been spending extraordinary amounts on policing, there have not seen sufficient improvements to safety, homelessness, mental health, or affordability in our towns. Benton County would be better served by dedicating resources to programs that are more effective at promoting safety and social equity than policing and incarceration.
The infrastructure of public spaces such as community gardens and parks has always been part of what makes Northwest Arkansas such a beautiful community, and that should not be restricted only to the wealthy areas of town.
We can be a beacon for other cities to follow if only we have the courage to change. Can I count on you to consider an alternative budget that puts a focus on social services rather than police?
[YOUR NAME][YOUR ADDRESS]
[YOUR EMAIL][YOUR PHONE NUMBER]