OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma City Police Chief Wade Gourley stood in front of OKC City Council Tuesday to present plans for fiscal year 2021.
A lot of city departments will have to make some cuts, including police, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large part of the police department’s cuts will have to come from personnel.
The plan right now: freeze 34 police positions and cut 12 unfilled civilian positions like clerks, technicians and assistants.
“They do so many things behind the scenes that people don’t realize,” said Chief Gourley in the teleconference meetings.
Chief Gourley hopes he doesn’t have to make any cuts to those who answer those emergency calls.
“Probably the biggest impact the public will recognize is 911 dispatchers. We try to do everything we can and could to not freeze those positions or cut those positions over there. We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to maintain the staffing there so that 911 calls will be answered,” he said.
The staffing cuts will allow for over $3 milllion in savings.
One big concern for Chief Gourley is community outreach, which has been tough because of the pandemic.
“This is one of the things that’s concerned me the most about the pandemic, is we haven’t been able to do these big community meetings like we have done in the past,” said Chief Gourley.
In this time of ongoing protests, outreach may be crucial.
Hours of public comments took place after the police chief proposed his budget, many of them calling for de-funding in the department.
“My concern is how this funding will be used when the dust settles and the return to normalcy happens,” said OKC resident Daniel Dunlap.
“I would love to see police department put more money towards the things that matter, to stop using militarized equipment and tear gas and rubber bullets as ways of de-escalation,” said another resident Kori Hall.
Chief Gourley did respond to some saying the department does not have any automatic weapons, or military surplus vehicles.
Others who chimed in are in support of police funding.
“I have a son in law enforcement, and I would be livid if you took away the riot gear that would protect him from what I saw,” said resident, Heather.
“They need a lot more money to be able to handle the land mass of Oklahoma City,” said resident Robert David.
A continuing debate as emotions and tensions run high right now.
There were multiple hours of discussion, you can watch the full video here.
More presentations are expected this month.
The new fiscal year starts July 1st.