Sep 20, 2022 - News

Michigan is using some ARPA funds to buy police cars

Illustration of a COVID-19 particle decal on the side of a police car.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Some Michigan localities are using federal COVID-19 recovery dollars to widen law enforcement efforts.

Driving the news: Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), President Joe Biden gave cities and counties $350 billion to alleviate the pandemic's impacts.

  • Local governments have allocated around $101 billion so far.

Why it matters: Few limitations were put on how local governments could spend ARPA funds, so municipalities are using them for a range of projects from direct pandemic health impacts to police equipment, parks, technology or vacant land remediation.

  • A new Marshall Project report found that localities across the country have allocated around $52.6 billion so far for "revenue replacement," a vague catch-all category. Nearly half of that went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement, courts, jails and prisons.
  • Biden is embracing the law enforcement spending and using it as evidence that Democrats don't want to defund the police.

State of play: In Michigan, one way at least 14 municipalities and counties are requesting to use or have used their allocations is to buy police vehicles, Axios found through a partnership with the Marshall Project. They include:

  • Taylor: $454,000, eight Chevy Tahoes
  • Southgate: $26,000, one new vehicle
  • Mackinac County: $200,000, 13 vehicles
  • Oakley: $29,000, replace a 14-year-old cruiser
  • And Delta County requested six new patrol vehicles for $300,000 because officers have been putting more miles on cars.

Zoom in: As part of a $50 million bucket designated for public safety out of its $826 million in total ARPA funding, Detroit sought $1.1 million for 50 2023 Chevrolet Malibu investigative vehicles.

  • The cars fell under the city's $19.4 million gun violence reduction initiative outlined in an ARPA spending plan. The city says the pandemic has driven an increase in gun violence.
  • City Council voted down the proposed spending in July.

What they're saying: The purchase would have given detectives dedicated cars for responding more quickly to scenes involving gun crime, deputy chief Mark Bliss told City Council. Vehicles are currently shared with other detectives.

The other side: Council Member Gabriela Santiago-Romero questioned spending ARPA funds on more police vehicles when "we have a lot of different things we could be using the million dollars for." She also noted that DPD already has the largest budget of any department.

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