PHOENIX — The Phoenix City Council voted 7-2 to adopt a $1.4 billion operating budget Monday that includes a fully-funded Citizen Review Board, which will investigate allegations of police brutality and officer-involved shootings.
Last week, during a contentious council meeting, finding the $2.9 million to fund the review board seemed unlikely. A majority of council members did not want to tap into the city’s rainy-day fund to pay for it despite the insistence of hundreds of people who either called in to the meeting, or wrote to the council demanding the board be funded.
“From my perspective, the debate has fundamentally changed in the last two weeks,” Mayor Kate Gallego said. “I have heard from the full spectrum of our community who say they want a city where everyone feels safe.”
In the days leading up to Monday’s vote, the City Manager’s office found the money. It came from a variety of sources -- savings from closing community centers and libraries, delaying the opening of city pools, a rebate from the county jail because of the reduced number of prisoners, plus federal CARES Act money.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio (District 6) questioned the use of federal funds. He thought it was illegal, but it’s not. Funding the review board will not impact a planned 1% pay raise for city employees or require any cuts to other departments.
Funding for the review board was seen as an essential commitment to transparency for a police department less than two years removed from a record 44 officer-involved shootings in 2018.
“We’re all human and we need humanity,” Councilmember Laura Pastor (District 4) said before voting yes. “But at the end of the day, black lives matter.”
Protesters who have also called for defunding the Phoenix Police Department will have to wait.
Currently the Police Department receives nearly 50% of the city’s operating budget. But Councilmember Carlos Garcia (District 8) warned that day is coming.
“This council consistently approves millions of dollars in weapons,” Garcia said. “When we have a fire department that doesn’t have enough ambulances, when we have crumbling infrastructure that needs investment, our community is asking us to reconsider how we invest in them. We must look at this moving forward.”