SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — The Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to reduce the city's police department budget by $5.3 million and implement other changes to police funding.
The meeting began at 7 p.m., and meetings over the past few weeks have had more than 100 people sign up for public comment. Only a few dozen were signed up at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. More residents continued to call in as the meeting went on.
At the beginning of the meeting, the council broke down some main points of its proposed budget.
Councilor Chris Wharton said at the start of the meeting,
“We heard that some of you want the police department abolished. Many called for reduced funding. Others want meaningful police reform."
After delaying the budget vote by a week to weigh changes to police funding, the Salt Lake City Council came to a proposal set for a vote.
“The proposal that is before us for a vote tonight would reduce the department budget by $5.3 million," Wharton said.
More than $2 million will be reserved until the new committee on racial equity and policing can be formed and make decisions on how money should be allocated. Wharton said other funds will also be moved.
“Another $2.5 million in funding will be for the social worker program. The program will still be housed within the police department, but moving funding outside the department allows more time for review and future discussions," he said.
During the council’s working group meeting this afternoon, they said some money is being moved from the police budget to the non-departmental budget. That includes money to ensure every officer has a body camera, and money to add technology to cruisers that automatically turns these cameras on when an officer exits the car.
It was stated that $687,000 would go toward more body cameras, and $93,000 would go toward the technology to go on police cruisers to turn the cameras on.
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Not everyone was pleased with the proposal. During public comment, one Poplar Grove resident said:
“I find it unconscionable that the council would sit through nearly five hours of demands to defund the police last Tuesday, only to produce the proposal that you have.”
The council acknowledged calls for greater cuts, but said time and more information will be needed as they continue to work toward change.
“Cutting an arbitrary amount off the top would not give the council the type of oversight and involvement we want to see long-term," Wharton said.
Others said during public comment they don’t think funding cuts will make the city safer.
One resident who called in said:
“All you have to do is go out at night and you can see the problems. Defunding the police is just going to add to those problems.”
It was acknowledged at the start of the meeting that the budget is just one step toward change. Previous meetings lasted into the morning following lengthy public comment.