Norman City Council creates mental health response team without cutting police department budget

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NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The Norman City Council held discussions on their budget into late Tuesday night amid a proposed $500,000 in budget cuts to the Norman Police Department.

Norman City Hall was packed Tuesday night for the budget discussion. No one could get inside Tuesday afternoon due to it being full. Two rallies were held before the meeting that started at 6:30 p.m. One of them was in favor of the cuts, while the other was against them. Several people gathered outside city hall on both sides of the aisle regarding the issue.

“I’m here to rally for better mental health care for my community,” said Lauren Medford, a medical assistant and resident of Norman.

“We’re here to support our police officers and we don’t want them to be defunded,” said Heather Madden, a Norman resident and wife of a Norman police officer.

Medford and the People’s Budget Coalition said they are for the budget cuts and want the money to be reallocated to mental health crisis intervention. They want a team of unarmed professionals who are suited to respond to mental health crises.

“The idea is that we have some other sort of resource other than police to draw on to be first responders,” Medford said.

On the other hand, Madden said she is not on the same page. She and others want to see that money stay in the department.

“It’s ridiculous what they’re doing,” she said.

This comes after the Norman City Council voted to reallocate $865,000 in police department funds in June of 2020. Norman police also sent KFOR a crime data worksheet showing statistics on crime in the city that can be viewed below.

Also below, is a portion of the email sent that describes their current staffing situation.

Authorized Commissioned Strength as of May 2020: 180

Authorized Commissioned Strength as of July 2020: 171

Total Number of Commissioned Officers as of June 1, 2021: 157

Total Number of Cadets in Academy / Field Training as of June 1, 2021: 10

Total Number of Commissioned Officers assigned to the Patrol Divisions: 104

15 of these officers are supervisors

Total Number of Patrol Officers: 89

Please note that of these 89 officers, 14 are on long-term leave such as FMLA, military service, or OJI.

Total number of officers who have voluntary resigned or retired since June 2020: 17

Total number of individuals available as of June 1, 2021 to work the streets as part of the Patrol Divisions: 75

Further, understanding that the same officers cannot work every day in a week, we actually have to look at the required number of officers needed to sustain minimum staffing for a full week. If we are going to allow for officers to take discretionary leave and participate in training, we need a minimum of 90 officers to achieve these staffing levels. If training and/or leave are restricted, minimum staffing could decrease to 76. However, this level of staffing can only be sustained for a short period before causing detrimental effects. If no discretionary leave or time for training is allowed, the minimum staffing could shift to 64. However, sustained operation with no access to discretionary leave and training is of great detriment.

SARAH JENSEN, NORMAN POLICE DEPARTMENT

Overnight, the Norman City Council voted to go forward with creating the Crisis Intervention Team.

However, the money will now be coming from the city’s general fund and not the police department’s budget.

Council members KFOR spoke with say essentially there was a double entry in the budget that left the fire department with an extra $1 million.

They were able to reroute that back to the general fund and that’s where they pulled the money from.

“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,” said Councilperson Brandi Studley.

They are calling the new team the Norman Compassionate Response Emergency Workers.

At this point, there are no details about when the new intervention team will actually be created and implemented.

The Norman Fraternal Order of Police released the following statement:

“Tuesday night, 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,” said Robert Wasoski, president of the Norman FOP. “Our members look forward to working with city leaders to ensure proper staffing levels to protect the public, and to changing how the city responds to non-criminal calls.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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