FRESNO, California (KGPE) – With hundreds of Fresno residents calling for reform and defunding of the Fresno Police Department, one Fresno City Councilmember asked the council to take action.
Councilmember Esmerelda Soria wants to get rid of the Fresno Police Department Homeless Task Force and have social workers or the Fire Department respond to the calls instead.
“We are criminalizing homelessness and poverty and I don’t like the message that we send,” said Soria. “So we need to rethink that in this budget cycle.”
Currently, there are six officers on the Homeless Taskforce. Fresno Police Officers Association President Todd Fraizer said officers already offer counseling and housing services. Year-to-date, out of over 3000 calls, 30 have ended in arrests.
“We will make due if the city decides to cut back on funding but you will reap what you sow,” said Fraizer.
Soria introduced the idea at a budget city public forum with the Mayor, Mayor-elect, and all the entire City Council.
The meeting quickly shifted from a discussion on the city’s $40 million budget deficit to a conversation about the future of law enforcement.
“I am here today to specifically request we defund the Police Department,” said Alexandria Ramos-O’Casey.
“As it currently stands the Police Department gets 53% of our budget and our parks department gets 6%,” said Resident Kimberly McCoy. “We need to start investing in our community and we need to start investing in our residents and we need to start investing in our youth.”
“What are you going to do and why have you not addressed that?” said Carolina Garza De Luna. “Why have you not addressed that when we know, you see us out there and the emails are coming in.”
In a week, close to 1000 emails have been sent to the City Council regarding the Police Department.
“It shouldn’t be like this,” continued McCoy. “I think it is time for you to stand up. For you to say you hear us. You see us. You acknowledge us.”