After an embattled year filled with cries to defund police, the Oklahoma City Police Department has presented a budget plan to grow the department.
If approved, it would be the largest police budget ever.
Oklahoma City police Chief Wade Gourley witnessed protests outside police headquarters last summer, and half a dozen of his officers have been indicted for manslaughter following police shootings.
On Wednesday, News 9 learned cadets have dropped out of the police academy due to the anger toward law enforcement.
“It’s a challenge right now. It really is,” Gourley said.
Yet, Gourley maintains the key to a safer streets is putting on more officers on them.
His budget proposal includes adding 34 officer positions that were previously frozen.
“We are really understaffed for a city of our size, even at a full strength of 1,235," he said.
But policing in Oklahoma City will change. How is still being determined through task forces and a city hired consulting firm.
About $300,000 has been pledged initially to help aspects of dealing with people in mental health crisis.
“Maybe a response where the call can be triaged and assigned to a mental health specialist,” Gourley said about the ideas he’s heard.
That $300,000 would not come from Gourley’s operating budget of $211 million. That’s roughly $7 million more than his budget this year.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s all salaries and benefits. It’s people, that’s what we are as a department,” Gourley said.
However, tens of thousands of dollar from a police and fire sale tax fund are being spent on equipment to improve the department’s “Reality Based Training Unit.”
The tool is used to teach de-escalation.
“Just about any situation that officers will face out in the field, we want to be able to recreate that,” Gourley said.
The budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 is the biggest ever for the department.
It’s also the biggest ever for the fire department.
All 18 city departments are seeing bigger budgets.