PHOENIX - The City of Phoenix has decided during a meeting Monday to set more money aside for police accountability and oversight.
In protests that have taken place following George Floyd's death, protesters have to "defund the police." Their chant has become rallying cry — and a stick for President Donald Trump to use on Democrats as he portrays them as soft on crime.
Supporters say it isn’t about eliminating police departments or stripping agencies of all of their money. They say it is time for the country to address systemic problems in policing in America and spend more on what communities across the U.S. need, like housing and education.
State and local governments spent $115 billion on policing in 2017, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.
Full police budget approved
While protesters have demanded the defunding of police departments, the Phoenix City Council still approved the full police department budget of $721 million, in a seven-to-two vote.
The council also upped the police department's oversight budget from $400,000 to around $3 million.
"Our community challenged us to fund the Office of Accountability and Transparency, or OAT, and our Civilian Review Board," said Mayor Kate Gallego. "I believe that office and board can play an important role in building a safer city with trust between our officers and the city they serve."
Exactly how that money will be spent is unknown, but some will go to the Civilian Review Board, which still in the planning stages. The Civilian Review Board was approved several months ago. When it is in place it will be run by city staff and manned by volunteers from the community - as a kind of community watchdog over police actions.
As for the additional oversight budget, it will come from other city departments that were shut down during the pandemic, as well as from city jails, which are housing fewer criminals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of the public speak out
Some, like Alissa Pratt, thinks defunding the police is a bad idea.
"If you vote to approve de-funding you are sending a clear message to gang members, drug cartel, sex traffickers and others in your community that you will tolerate a city of injustice," said Pratt.
Others who demanded to defund the police say more money for oversight is a first step.
"It’s baby steps, so I’m thankful for that, but it’s still not enough." said Candace Mallette.
DiCiccio criticizes vote
On his verified Twitter page, City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio criticized the vote, saying the proposal was a slap in the face for both children and police.
In addition, DiCiccio also criticized other city councilmembers for not thanking the city's police force, or members of their family.
DiCiccio represents Phoenix's 6th City Council District, which covers portion of Biltmore, Arcadia, and the community of Ahwatukee, which lies south of South Mountain.
Garcia calls vote a "first step"
In a statement, Councilmember Carlos Garcia says while the city has continued to pass a budget that funds the police disproportionately, he also calls the vote a "first step" in the process of creating a safe community for Phoenix.
"Funding these programs will not solve all the issues our community faces with police, including police brutality or institutionalized racism, but hopefully it will start a conversation on how we as a community envision a different future—a future where public safety isn’t defined as police, but as a community where all residents have their basic needs met," read a portion of the statement.
Garcia represents District 8, which covers portions of South Phoenix, Laveen, and parts of Central Phoenix.
Pastor thanked colleagues, peaceful protesters
In a statement, Councilwoman Laura Pastor called the vote a historic step.
"Our work to heal our broken community can now truly begin. We are all human and we need humanity. I look forward to working with the entire community to continue to create positive change in our city," read a portion of the statement.
Pastor represents District 4, which covers portions of Phoenix north of Downtown, as well as parts of Maryvale.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.