Norman became the first city in Oklahoma to partially defund its police department. Early Wednesday morning, the City Council voted to cut $865,000 from the Norman Police Department's budget.
Amid a pandemic that has crippled the economy and protests calling for police to be held more accountable, Mayor Breea Clark said it was a mixture of the two that lead to the council's decision.
“It’s about smart budgeting always, we want to be very responsible with tax payers dollars, but it’s also using those tax dollars in the best way that truly improves lives, so I think you can say it approaches both of those topics," Clark said.
The city will now reallocate the $865,000 to other areas. Clark said approximately $235,000 of the reallocation will go towards an internal audit function to help the city save money across the board.
The remaining $630,000 will be used for creating community outreach programs. Clark said cutting the department's budget isn't about punishing the police, but making their jobs easier.
“We ordinarily don’t provide services like mental health and addiction services, it becomes the police’s problem, and that’s not working for anyone, let’s be honest about that,” she said.
Clark said the cuts mean four new positions within the department won’t be filled. As for any job cuts, she’s said it’s too early to say.
Clark and others spoke Tuesday night about wanting a more diverse police force, but how do you recruit officers to a department that’s reducing salaries and benefits?
“That is a great question and something I’ve truly thought about, and wondered how that’s going to work out. I’d like to think that when minority police officers see the efforts we’re making to improve their quality of life as police officers, in terms of helping them focus on their core services while we support core services in this way, will be a draw," she said.
News 9 reached out to the Norman Police Department. A spokesperson said they don't want to comment right now and they're still having conversations with city officials about what these budget cuts mean for the department.
The new budget goes into effect July 1.