News 9 has learned a total of eight officers have either resigned or filed for retirement since June 16.
The reason that date is significant is because of a marathon city council session that stretched in the early morning hours, resulting in significant cuts to the proposed police department budget.
The city voted to cut about $865,000 from the proposal outlined by Chief Kevin Foster, amid concerns from dozens of racial justice advocates who filled the building.
Following the meeting, Chief Foster announced the department could not fill 9 open positions due to the lack of funds.
Since then, a total of eight officers, three who have resigned and five who have put in for retirement, intend to leave the department.
Among the retired is Sgt. Robert Wasoski, a 29-year veteran.
Wasoski is also the Norman Fraternal Order of Police President.
"It was quite a shock to all of the officers. I think they felt like the city did not support them," he said. "I think Norman is safe right now, depending on the path the city takes with our department... could mean a difference in seeing a decline in public safety."
Wasoski said he planned on retiring soon anyway to instruct at the local Votech. However, the council's decision helped him walk out the door.
He said other officers are also exploring their options.
"At least two officers have tested at another local agency. We have about six or eight that are in the testing process for federal agencies. So, we have as many as eight more we could lose by the end of the year," he said.
Wasoski said the department and citizens continue to support the officers, but he’s concerned that the city council has an agenda that does not reflect the interest of public safety.
"Almost on a daily basis, we have people come up to us and thank us for our service," he said. "I have not had a single person come up to us and say, 'I am glad they took your money away."
Mayor Breea Clark said she has been a supporter of law enforcement but wanted to take a different approach to safety response.
“I have made some very good friends that are police officers, and I have supported the police department well before I was an elected official. I know that change is hard, but the changes in the proposed budget weren’t made to punish the police department. Well, I can only speak to my vote. My vote was made because I wanted to try something different. Something that would not only improve quality of life for Norman residents, but also the quality of profession for Norman police officers. What we are looking to do is not new or unheard of. The models we are looking at have been successful for years in other cities our size and even larger. With that said, I respect the decisions of those officers who feel they need to leave or retire. As of late, Norman has consistently been ahead of the game in the state of Oklahoma when it comes to trying to do things that may seem visionary or controversial here, but are quite common place (and successful) in other parts of the nation. For those officers that remain because they love what they do and they love their city, know that I stand with you. This was admittedly a rough start, but I am confident together we will make a better Norman and redefine policing in our community and set a new standard for the state of Oklahoma.”
Wasoski said he will remain the president of Norman’s Fraternal Order of Police until his term ends in 2022.
The FOP recently filed a lawsuit against the city, and he said he plans to see that through.
Wasoski’s will retire officially on July 31.
With the nine unfilled positions, and the eight recent departures, Norman has a total of 17 empty positions.