Tempe accepts $ 104 million for the police department in a new $ 1.2 billion budget, though the police task force’s work is not quite done

On June 10, Tempe City Council passed a $ 1.2 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-22 that includes $ 104 million for the police department, an increase of about $ 7 million per compared to the previous year. –Photo from Wrangler News file

While the Public Safety Advisory Working Group hasn’t quite finished its work and delivered its report, Tempe City Council approved $ 104 million for the police service on June 10 as it passed a budget of $ 1.2 billion for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Unlike the previous year, when there had been a march on Town Hall by those who wanted to fund the police service, there was no public contribution or comment offered this time for or against any element. of the new budget, and the Council adopted it unanimously.

The Public Safety Advisory Working Group is tasked with delving deep into policing and making recommendations on procedures that rethink approaches to community safety in the wake of social justice issues following several high-profile incidents involving the ministry which were questioned by the Public.

Social justice, systemic racism and the role of the police have been in the spotlight over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force will create a strategic plan designed to build trust, accountability and dialogue between the community and the police service.

The 22-member volunteer group, which was convened last fall by Mayor Corey Woods, was originally scheduled to hold six meetings until December. A seventh was added in January. Since then, as the working group tried to summarize the documents and create a draft strategic plan to present to city council, another meeting of the group has been called on June 9.

The task force now plans to present its summary to city council on June 17. The report will be made public for comment later. The expert group had hoped to complete the draft report early this year and submit it to the Council and the public for consideration by February.

Tempe, however, couldn’t wait. State law requires the adoption of a budget and the approval of the property tax for the coming fiscal year by July 1. The signing of the tax is scheduled for June 24.

The Mayor of Tempe Corey Woods

Woods said the task force’s delay did not pose a problem in establishing funding for the police department for the coming year.

“In the end, it might have been ideal if the task force report had been drafted before the start of the budget season, but internally our goal was not to worry as much about speed as good. get it right, ”Woods said. . “So with the task force report, we want to take our time, make sure that we accurately collect feedback and feedback from the 22 task force members, and produce a report that was truly representative of those seven meetings on. a period of about three months.

“But that did not pose any problems in determining the budget of the police department or any other department for the coming fiscal year.”

The budget allocation of $ 103.8 million for the police service represents an increase of approximately $ 7 million from the previous year.

“There have been eight full-time positions restored to the police department that were previously frozen due to the pandemic and some of the budgetary challenges that have come with it,” said Woods.

The overall budget takes a look at Tempe’s continued transformation into a high density urban municipality.

“One of the things we’re looking at is what staff in all departments, not just police, should look like,” Woods said. “Obviously, for a city of probably over 200,000 people when the new census figures come in, we are a net importer of jobs; we have Arizona State University, the largest public university in the country, right in our backyard; we are obviously in favor of special events and we are obviously an increasingly dense and bigger city, especially in our downtown area.

“We need to take these elements into account when we consider what staffing levels should look like in the future. I trust our city manager, Andrew Ching, and our chief of police, Jeff Glover, to look at these things and make recommendations.

As of last month, Tempe still had 50 full-time positions frozen because of his belt tightening caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 495 part-time workers were put on leave.

“We try to build a lot of flexibility into our budget, so by talking to different departments and listening to our residents, we are able to make changes during the year if needed,” said Woods. “We budgeted very conservatively last year with the pandemic. We are fortunate that things did not go as badly as they could have been and we are starting to see an economic recovery and rebound. So there is significant emergency funding built into this year’s budget to allow us to make any adjustments we feel are necessary. “

Tempe is expected to receive $ 46 million – $ 23 million this year and $ 23 million next – in federal COVID-19 relief money. There could, however, be strict guidelines from the federal government on how this money can be spent, so the city is careful about how it plans these funds, according to the mayor.

Woods acknowledged that the police department, along with all departments, was urged last year to do more with less.

“You can only do it for so long,” said Woods. “It is important that we seek efficiency gains. We’ve had to be creative and innovative and figure out how to do this work in different ways, so the staff structure may change a bit as we come out of the pandemic.

“We recognize that many departments really need more people to make sure they can do their jobs and can do the business of our residents as well.”

Public Safety Working Group continues its work

At its June 9 meeting, the task force discussed the need for greater transparency to the public in memoranda of understanding between police unions and the city; the declaration of the rights of families and victims in interactions with officers; conduct at work, in particular the use of profanity, by officers; the establishment of a crisis intervention team, in which a mental health professional could accompany an agent to certain calls for service; recruitment and retention of officers, in particular officers of color; whether racism is ingrained in roadside checks and the role of school resource officers on campuses.

Tempe Police Chief Jeff Glover

“We can recognize that there has been trauma and problems in policing, as we all know,” Glover said. “We also need to build relationships and engage with the people, with the community. We are part of the community. The community has a say in how we interact and what we do. It is important to recognize these issues, but it is also important to stay engaged so that we can fill these gaps.

“We can learn from each other. This is how we learn. Learn from these mistakes. This is how we move forward together.

The task force discussed whether the police should be the first to respond to calls for service regarding mental health and homelessness, among other calls that are not considered traditional policing.

“I had these conversations with police officers and they said the exact same thing, that they entered the police academy to fight crime, to focus on violent crime and things of that nature.” , Woods said. “Part of the task force’s work was on a lot of these things: What are the basic functions of the police? Other problems could be dealt with in the future by a division of human services. When I talk to our police officers, they are very supportive of going back to what they see as the main function of policing and moving other elements to a different service where these people have some type of training. different.

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