NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Activists want police department budgets reduced, and the money reinvested in community programs.

While union officials agree changes need to be made, they say the current rhetoric is taking a toll on the NYPD.

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“How is morale?” CBS2’s Andrea Grymes asked.

“It’s at an all-time low,” said Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch. “It’s the most difficult time, and the most complex time to be a New York City police officer.”

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Lynch worries about his members, some 24,000 NYPD officers. Lynch believes many elected officials do not support them at a time when thousands are taking to the streets to protest police.

“We get criticized for other states, other towns, and policies that we don’t make,” Lynch said. “Reform has to be broadly looked at. How do you make a better police department and how do you make a more effective police department? That conversation is not happening.”

Lynch points to several factors, including calls to defund the police, a rallying cry thrust into the mainstream after George Floyd’s death.

“Defund the police means to disband the police. Make no mistake about it,” Lynch said.

“I actually believe we’re moving in the right direction towards abolishment. And that starts with defunding the police,” said Chivona Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York.

Newsome believes the country needs to completely reimagine policing, and it begins with taking money away from police budgets, including the NYPD’s.

“The real reason for reallocation of those funds, and why we see the police are truly not needed, is because areas with the highest rates of unemployment, they also have the highest murder rates. So if we took that money and invested into community, there would be less of a need for police,” she said.

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Newsome pointed to initiatives like Cure Violence, where trained civilians mediate neighborhood issues before they result in crime.

“When you really target and pour the resources to the persons and people who need it most, you take away half their problems,” said Andre Mitchell. “It is a great way to show how community can play it’s part.”

Mitchell founded Man Up! Inc. 12 years ago in East New York, Brooklyn, an area that recently had among the most shootings in the city.

In addition to Cure Violence and other programs, Man Up! also helps run a state-of-the-art community center, another example of where Mitchell believes some NYPD money should go instead.

“The positive result that we’ve had in response from the community has been overwhelming,” Mitchell said.

But critics are concerned about what reallocating police funds means for public safety at a time when shootings and subway assaults are up.

A new PIX11/Emerson College poll found a combined 70% of registered city voters believe the NYPD budget should either be increased or kept the same. Thirty percent believe it should be decreased. The same poll also found 61% of white voters and 61% of Hispanic voters report having a positive view of the NYPD, compared to just 33% of Black voters.

Last summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget, in part, cutting a police class, overtime, and shifting school safety and homeless outreach out of the NYPD. The city says, instead, some of that money went to summer youth programs, education, and family and social services.

This year, the mayor proposed a slight increase for the NYPD.

“If you don’t have a well-funded, well-trained police department and a community that’s on board, a community that’s teaching their children to respect the police as opposed to hate the police, it’s never going to work,” said Angel Maysonet, a retired NYPD detective.

“You need to have continuing education in the New York City Police Department. And you need to have training that helps us do both ends of the job,” Lynch said. “Having the dialogue, having the discussion and being transparent, and when that doesn’t work, we need to do, to do a couple things: Keep our police safe, more importantly keep our community safe, and you know what, even to keep the perpetrator safe. At the end of the day, we want everyone to go home so we can then solve the problem.”

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This year, the mayor’s budget proposal includes funding for a new police precinct in Queens that will also house a new community center, plus more money for police overtime which the commissioner says will help fight crime.

Andrea Grymes