FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — As the conversation around whether or not to defund police departments continues nationally, Fresno City Councilmembers are getting a lot of requests from citizens.
Residents have sent close to 1,000 emails since Friday. Half of them demanding reform and the other half asking for defunding of the police department.
The city will hold a public forum online at 9 a.m. on Tuesday to discuss the budget.
Dominque Quigley with the Fresno Public Defenders Office is calling on officials to not increase police department funds this year and instead send it somewhere else.
“Community services, social workers, things of that nature would help provide safety to the community that wouldn’t necessarily be law enforcement,” said Quigley.
In 2017, the city gave the police department $152 million. In 2018, it went up to $170 million. In 2019, it increased again to $184 million.
Council President Miguel Arias said even with the significant increase in funding, the officer’s response time is constant.
“It is about 20 minutes right now if it is an urgent call,” said Arias. “That for me is the biggest factor. We have given millions more but the public hasn’t received millions more in public safety services.”
Due to the pandemic, the city is expected to have a budget shortfall of over $50 million. Mayor Lee Brand not in support of cutting public safety funds.
“The police department,” said Brand. “Should review its operations on a continual basis. If that means going more towards community policing then so be it. That is a long discussion. I don’t think anyone here wants to defund the police department. I definitely don’t want to defund the police department. I was to listen to people and make changes if necessary.”
Fresno Police Officer Association President Todd Fraizer said if the community wants an increase in officer training, the department will need more money not less.
“They are working with a skeleton crew just like our police department in general,” said Fraizer. “We are right around 800 officers. We should be right around 950 to 1,000 officers and if you really want us to practice community-based policing it will take much more money, not defunding. That is ridiculous.”