Phoenix Assistant City Manager: Police 'Largely Defunded' In Budget

By Christina Estes
Published: Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 6:42pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 7:50am

Phoenix police headquarters
Christina Estes/KJZZ
The front entrance at Phoenix police headquarters.

As Phoenix leaders consider a budget that starts July 1, Vice Mayor Carlos Garcia continues pushing to reduce funding for the police department.  

The proposed budget includes new civilian positions to handle an increase in public records requests from the police department. Garcia questioned whether they need to be police employees.

“Is there a potential for these 75 position to have or in the future live in other places?” he said.

That could be evaluated, said Assistant City Manager Jeff Barton who pointed out that certain databases require in-depth background checks that don’t apply to other departments.

Barton also said, compared to before the Great Recession, the police department is down about 300 civilian and 400 sworn positions.

“In effect, they have been to some extent, largely defunded because our population has continued to increase as well as our calls for service have increased,” he said. “If I compare their budget for next year compared to the ’07-’08 budget, it’s also, if I take out the pension increase and I take out the compensation increases and the supplementals that we’re talking about today, the police department budget is less next year than it was in ’07-08.”

Garcia mentioned new revenue earmarked for police as a result of new taxes from recreational marijuana and asked how that would affect the budget. Barton said estimates vary significantly and a discussion about how to use additional revenue from marijuana sales will be a future council discussion.

Garcia asked his colleagues to explore holding future contract negotiations in a public venue. The city manager said for the last 40 years, Phoenix and all employee unions have conducted negotiations privately, but if council members want to make them public, they can.

During the meeting, more details emerged about Phoenix’s plans to expand its community assistance program. The civilian only program responds to mental and behavioral health calls for service and has been operating autonomously out of the Fire Department since 1995.

“They take in excess of 6,000–plus calls a year and they have about 1,500-2,000 calls that go unanswered every year,” Barton said. “That program is largely based on grant funded positions and volunteers.”

He said the proposed budget would fund 40 current positions and eventually involve working with a private provider to have more than 130 trained professionals handling crisis response. Completing the full program expansion could take up to two years.

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