Mayor Eric Johnson as well as Councilmembers Chad West, Adam Medrano, Casey Thomas II, Carolyn King Arnold, Jaime Resendez, Omar Narvaez, Adam Bazaldua, Tennell Atikins, Paula Blackmon, Lee Kleinmann, Jennifer Gates, and David Blewett voted to delay consideration of the approximately $6.5 million police department budget increase.
In a memo to City Manager T.C. Broadnax, several members of the Dallas City Council expressed their desire on Tuesday to “reimagine public safety” and “align [the city’s] budget priorities.”
The memo was a response to calls across the nation by activists to defund police departments, the controversial proposal to redirect taxpayer resources from police departments to other proposed city programs.
Councilmember Adam Bazaldua, who authored the memo, characterized demands to defund the police as a “call to address the deep root of our nation’s unjust practices and institutions and the need for us, as a city, to repair the harm of structural oppression.”
During regular appropriations adjustments to the current fiscal year’s budget, councilmembers pondered ideas to advance public safety in ways other than policing.
Councilmember Casey Thomas II asserted that, while he does not want to abolish the police department, the presence of more police does not necessarily correlate to increased public safety.
“Sometimes the presence of more police officers represents anxiety,” Thomas said.
Assistant City Manager Jon Fortune said the city would like to expand and extend Parkland Health & Hospital System’s RIGHT Care program into the future.
RIGHT Care started in 2018 that responds to mental health crises in southern Dallas.
“The first-of-its-kind program in Texas, RIGHT Care is a partnership involving specially-trained paramedics from Dallas Fire-Rescue, Dallas Police Department officers and Parkland behavioral health social workers,” Parkland Hospital says on its website.
However, one council member believed the discussions amounted to little more than political grandstanding.
Councilmember Cara Mendelsohn criticized the city council for “kowtowing” to demonstrators, pointing out that the council had been discussing poverty, alternatives to policing, and mental health concerns long before anyone began protesting in Dallas.
Mendelsohn said she was wary of council members taking “victory laps.”
Dallas’ Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich advised the council that personnel comprises about 87 percent of the police department’s budget, and that it would be difficult to make sizable cuts if only the remaining 13 percent was on the table.
If it had been approved, the adjustment would have been an increase in Dallas Police Department funding from about $517 million to approximately $523.5 million.
Reich told the council that its decision to delay the adjustment would not affect paychecks.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said on Wednesday he’s open to a “robust conversation at budget time” about police department funding.
Despite opposition from Mayor Jacob Frey, the city council in Minneapolis, Minnesota voted to disband its police department on Sunday following the death of George Floyd.
64 percent of Americans oppose calls to defund the police, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.
The poll also revealed that 60 percent of Americans are against the concept of withdrawing funds from police departments to provide more resources for mental health programs, housing, and education, if it meant reducing the number of police officers.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."