Police funding and civilian oversight were among the topics discussed before Fort Worth city council members on Friday in a special work session meeting.
During the meeting, Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus presented a proposal that would spend a greater amount of the department’s special sales tax fund on civilian response teams, non-profits, and alternatives to traditional policing.
Standard police services would stay in the department’s general under the proposal, placing the majority of the community-based services in the Crime Control and Prevention District (‘CCPD’) which was renewed in July. Fort Worth provides more than $80 million to the police through the CCPD, which accounts for about one-third of the department’s budget.
A few key takeaway points highlighted in Kraus’ proposal on ‘re-envisioning’ CCPD, included reducing the budget for equipment and enhanced enforcement but increasing budgets for crime prevention, recruitment and training, and community partnerships.
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“Some of the narrative that has been going out recently has caused us to take a closer look at this and try to make some changes where we could,” Kraus told council members. “Also, we recognized as the CCPD came up for election and there was a lot of outcry against it, people asking for it not to be passed that there was a lack of education on our part on exactly what is covered in the CCPD.”
One of Kraus’ proposals included the expansion of the Crisis Intervention Team from its current one team of eight members to two teams of 10.
He also suggested the creation of a pilot program, consisting of 10 civilian members. The non-sworn members would be trained and equipped to respond to non-violent and non-emergency calls, such as welfare checks.
“We have looked at the calls that we believe this team could handle and we believe it could save several thousand calls from going to officers. That will help officers spend more time on their beat, help officers with their response times,” Kraus said.
The proposal was largely praised by council members Friday. District councilmember Jungus Jordan said he was confident the pilot program could be successful, but it would take some work and public outreach.
“It’s going to require a lot of training and a lot of education and a lot change in expectation that when we call 911, and it’s a car parked on the street that’s a non-emergency, it might not be a police officer that shows up,” Jordan said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price described the plan as “well thought out”.
“I’m never going to support defunding our police department, and I don’t believe the majority of the council will either. This is not a significant reduction even in our police department. This is a shifting of services,” Mayor Price said. “I want people to be unequivocally clear that this is not a defunding, nor it is a reduction. This is a support for our police department and support for our community to come together.”