NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) — On Tuesday night, the Norman City Council proposed a controversial cut to the police department. The vote would reallocate $500,000 to create a mental health crisis response unit. The council ultimately voted to create the response team, not with money from the police department—but with with money they didn’t even realize they had until last week.
“When she checked the spreadsheets, there was about a million dollars in total from two separate entries that got put on the spreadsheet twice,” said Darrel Pyle, Norman City Manager.
A million-dollar error in the Norman City Council Budget is working in favor of creating a mental health crisis response unit.
The extra money was initially allocated to the city’s fire department. The city’s senior budget analyst finding the double entries about a week ago.
“There’s an old saying that says sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and we got really lucky,” Pyle said.
“Once we learned that the fire department had a double entry in our budget, and we took that out of the general fund because it was double dipping we actually had an additional million dollars left,” said Brandi Studley, Norman City Council Ward 1.
Norman City Hall was packed on Tuesday night as councilors considered cutting $500,000 from the police department to fund the response team– who would respond to mental or behavioral emergency calls. But not everyone was pleased.
“Forming a mobile crisis unit without partnering with the police is not only ill-informed, it is unsafe and it puts the lives of individuals in crisis at risk. It is dangerous,” said one person during public comment.
While others felt it was a necessary move.
“The idea is that we have some other sort of resource other than police to draw on to be first responders,” said Lauren Medford, a medical assistant.
But ultimately, no cuts were to the police necessary. Moving the $500,000 needed from the general fund– passing with a vote of 5-4.
“I was hoping that that would make everyone happy unfortunately there are still some people that are upset but we hope that in the future this will allow law enforcement here to have some help and be able to respond to calls quicker,” Studley said.
The city now working on the details for what they’re calling CREW– the Norman Compassionate Response Emergency Workers.
“We’ll find a spot on council’s calendar and bring in the professionals that need to be at the table. Professionals form the state Department of mental health and substance abuse. Some of our local service providers that provide case management to people in crisis,” Pyle said.
On Wednesday, Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman Fraternal Order of Police also sent News 4 this statement on the vote—saying in part–
“City Council clearly saw the people of Norman want an adequately funded police department. We thank everyone who came to the meeting to share their views, and we thank the Council for listening.”