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Politics & Government

SLC Council Will Consider Approving Police Overtime Costs Amid Continued Calls To Defund Them

A photo taken at a BLM protest.
Kelsie Moore
/
KUER
After voting to reduce the police department’s budget last June, the Salt Lake City Council has approved some budget amendments to add funding from its general fund and through grant programs to the department. The council will vote on additional funding requests at its meeting Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Salt Lake City council will consider another request to increase funding for police. It’s one of several from the city’s police department since last June, when the council voted to reduce the police budget by $5.3 million in response to protests against police brutality.

In fact, nearly every budget amendment that has come across the council’s desk this fiscal year has included additional funding for law enforcement.

Brinley Froelich is a member of Decarcerate Utah. The group has been organizing public comment campaigns against the amendments.

Froelich said the council’s approval of the items shows it has ignored some community members’ calls for defunding the police.

“We recognize that there are other parts of the city budget that need funding and need resources,” she said. “And the police department is one of the best ways I think that they can reallocate.”

One of the department’s latest asks is $650,000 to support their presence at homeless camp cleanups.

City Council Chair Amy Fowler said, right now, the police are understaffed.

“We've had to increase overtime just for police officers to be able to do their regular duties, and then added on to all of the many events we had in 2020,” Fowler said.

Another item includes more than $326,000 in overtime pay related to last year’s protests.

The Salt Lake City Police Department reported it lost more than 60 officers in the past year. In January, the council lifted its hiring freeze, which was implemented at the same time as last year’s budget reductions.

Froelich said the city can reduce overtime requests by limiting police duties.

“I think that we're all under this impression that the police are kind of this catchall solution to any problem that we see,” she said. “But in reality, there are so many different alternatives to police that I think people just aren't aware of yet.”

At the top of her list is using police funding for housing assistance or other resources to help people meet their basic needs.

Fowler said the council is listening to recommendations from the city’s Racial Equity in Policing Commission. There’s also an audit of the police budget that she said will guide how the council allocates funding going forward.

“That is really one of the biggest things that we can show that we're serious about police reform, really looking at what the audit says,” Fowler said. “Where can we move money? What are we spending money on? Are there things that we don't need in our police department because it creates more of a danger, in some ways?”

Other requests in the latest budget amendment include grant funding for training, equipment and safety programs.

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