NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – On Wednesday, the Norman Police Department chief, Norman city manager and city finance director held a press conference to address rumors about the police budget.
“They’re working a political side of this thing,” Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster said during the news conference on Wednesday.
Officials wouldn’t specify who is spreading the rumors, but at that joint news conference with Norman city leaders and Chief Foster, the group quashed some rumors about the police budget.
“Over the past several weeks, we’ve been receiving numerous phone calls, asking questions seeking clarification regarding comments people have seen on social media,” Darrel Pyle, city manager of Norman, said.
Those questions came after a vote by the city council back in June to reallocate $865,321 of the police budget to the general fund for community outreach and for an internal audit function, eliminating nine positions within the department.
“We still have the ability to respond to calls and we hope that it is not affecting our response times, and if it is, it is most likely affecting those that are non-emergency calls,” Foster said.
Foster also addressed misinformation about the police academy, saying they expect to have one in March.
“I’ve asked for approval for a dozen, because we’re several down from the 171 right now and I anticipate being down more by the time the Spring comes around,” he said. “The spots that we will be filing will be spots that were below the 171. The cuts that we took on the budget, took us from 180 down to 171 authorized. Right now, we’re about at 165-164, so we have ability in the budget to put those positions back. They’re already budgeted for.”
Although there’s a cut for Fiscal Year 2021, the overall police budget is still higher than it was the year before.
“The Police Department combined budget was increased from FY 2020 to FY 2021 by $300,024,” Anthony Francisco, City of Norman finance director, said.
Meanwhile, the group Unite Norman is still gathering signatures, hoping to get a recall election for the city council and Mayor Breea Clark because of their vote to make that cut to the Police Department.
“Right now, we’ve gathered enough signatures to recall wards 3 and 5, and we’re rapidly approaching enough signatures to recall the mayor and Ward 1,” Russell Smith, Co-Founder of Unite Norman, told KFOR. “A lot of people want to bring sanity back to this city.”
In order to get a recall election for the mayor, the group would need 18,000 signatures by Aug. 14.
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