Hundreds of law enforcement officials filled the Norman Town Hall on Tuesday evening to oppose a proposed budget cut by the city police.
The council chamber was occupied by 253 people before 5 p.m., almost exclusively law enforcement officials, and was still full at 10 p.m., according to police and fire brigade officers who worked during the meeting.
Councilor Brandi Studley’s budget change suggests that the city cut $ 500,000 from the police budget and use that money for a mental health crisis response team.
“We’ve been talking about more training for five solid years, but that’s just no longer the answer,” Studley said at the start of the meeting on Tuesday. “Have psychiatrists handle calls related to mental illness.”
The Norman Police Department said the proposal would remove five civil servant positions from the payroll.
Hundreds of opposition to the cut showed up early for the meeting in matching shirts and showed their support for the Norman Police Department.
“I mean, you are talking about slower response times and (and) fewer officers,” said Steve Guerrero, a Normandy resident. “They may not have the equipment to deal with the things they need.”
“You need the money more,” said Christina Buchanan. “We can find sources of support to a mental crisis other than taking it away from our officers.”
A smaller group helped redeploy the funds into an alternative to armed officials responding to mental health calls.
“It’s something that Norman will help. It will help prevent crime rather than fight crime,” said Normanite Jackson Foote.
Cynthia Rogers, a Norman resident and professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the issue of police funding was too controversial.
“I think we could have a very different conversation if only it was, ‘We’ll find the money for this,” she said, referring to Studley’s proposed mental health team.