PHOENIX — Some called it a "slap in the face," "laughable" and a "reward" to the Phoenix Police Department, after ABC15 Investigators exposed officers in one Arizona's largest police departments lied and exaggerated details in arrests leading to gang charges of some protesters arrested in the summer of 2020.
City officials presented it's "trial budget" for the 2021-2022 fiscal year to members of the Phoenix City Council Tuesday. The proposed budget would allocate an additional 3.7 million dollars to Phoenix police to fill empty civilian positions, increase wages and invest in police reform, according to Assistant City Manager Jeff Barton.
While no official vote on the city's budget will happen until June, community members and activists flooded the discussion portion of the policy meeting with calls expressing outrage at the proposal.
"This budget hit me like a punch to the gut," said Ben Laughlin with Poder in Action, a non-profit group advocating against violence with Phoenix police. "How can we be proud to increase the police budget by millions of dollars?”
"This department has proven itself violent racist and irreformable," said another caller. "Why would you reward that?”
“I'm opposed to this budget and I will continue to be opposed to this budget as long as the city manager‘s office and this council continue to look away from the violence that Phoenix police introduced to the city every day," said a third.
Phoenix city leaders heard several comments in support of a related but separate initiative to fund a city-led crisis response initiative to residents who suffer from mental health issues. The program would take the burden off police officers to respond to some crisis calls, and instead send trained professionals to help individuals in need.
Still, many activists worry more money won't solve deep rooted issues between many civilians and officers.
"This is our money, and you cannot continue to use our money to fund this department that is actively killing people in our community," said Viri Hernandez, also with Poder in Action. "It feels like a slap in the face and a continuous lack of accountability, especially for the many mothers and children with lost their loved ones to this department.”
Phoenix city leaders say they plan to hold several "virtual hearings" starting in April, to get more input from community members on what changes they'd like to see to the proposed budget.