A new budget passed by Tucson’s City Council came after more than an hour of public comment over funding for the Tucson Police Department, with many speakers calling for a decrease in spending in order to boost support for more social programs. The council ultimately voted 6-1 on a budget that includes $166 million for police.
Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, who voted to approve the budget, said spending less on Tucson Police would betray voters who passed Proposition 101 in 2017. The measure raised the city’s sales taxes for five years in part to support first responders.
“We take that funding away now and they’ll never trust us again,” Kozachik told fellow council members. He later told Arizona 360 what approach he’d like the city to take instead and where there’s room for improvement.
“The two things that I hear most commonly are, No. 1, improve your response times. And No. 2, we the neighbors appreciate community policing. Community policing takes more officers, not fewer. And if we’re going to improve our response time, again, cutting funding and reducing staffing is not the way to achieve that,” Kozachik said.
“All total, Lorraine, we’ve put about over $2 million in this budget simply to give the police the social service support they’re going to need when they go out on calls,” Kozachik said. “We hear from the community that oftentimes law enforcement is not the right agency to be called, we get that, we understand that. But the difficulty is putting the burden on a 911 dispatcher to make that triage decision. Do I, the dispatcher, send a law enforcement agency out or do I send a social worker out?”