Group Calls to Defund Police Budget $30 Million

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

The Sacramento City Council today will hear public safety budget proposals for the coming fiscal year.

The Sacramento Police Department is proposing a budget of $165.9 million for 2021-22 — about $10 million more than last year and its largest budget to date.

But the People’s Budget Sacramento, which seeks to give the community a say in how tax money is spent, opposes increasing the department’s budget and wants more than $30 million in police funding to shift to other programs.

Freshman city councilmembers Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang both participated in a People’s Budget Sacramento rally last week which called on the city to adopt a people’s budget and start by redirecting some Sacramento Police Department funding to the new Office of Community Response.

“I hope investing in upstream intervention will reduce the intensity of crises we are seeing on the street right now,” said Valenzuela, who represents the central city, Land Park and River Oaks neighborhood in Natomas.

Valenzuela said the people’s budget proposal would roll police spending back to 2019-20 levels. She wants to examine spending such as use of overtime and equipment purchases for possible cost-savings.

“I’m talking about impact,” said Valenzuela. “I’d rather put that money into social workers.”

But Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn said not approving the proposed $10 million increase and cutting his department’s budget by another $30 million would take hundreds of officers off the city’s streets.

“That would be devastating to all neighborhoods, especially to the more challenged and impoverished neighborhoods,” Hahn said. “We would probably just be responding to violent crime, and not doing it very well.”

Hahn pointed to the department’s current staffing levels, which he said are among the lowest in the country for a city the size of Sacramento. The city, he added, still has fewer officers than in 2008, when police department staffing was cut in response to the recession.

“We are an understaffed department and we have been for a really long time,” said Hahn.

And according to Hahn, crime in Sacramento has increased in the past year.

The number of people shot increased 144% and the number of firearms seized increased 55% between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, Hahn said. Through April, 547 guns were confiscated compared to 353 this time last year, and 83 people have been shot, compared to 34 this time last year, he said.

While Valenzuela agreed staffing ratios are lower in Sacramento compared to other cities, she said she doesn’t believe the crime rate is higher.

“Across the country violent crime has gone up, unfortunately,” Valenzuela said.

“If someone is in crisis, we need someone to respond quickly,” she added. “The question is how to prevent a crisis? That’s not the police’s job.”

Valenzuela said the city needs to commit more funds to its new Department of Community Response which is meant to tackle 911 calls that do not require a police officer response.

“We need to commit those resources to make it a reality and there is no better time than now,” she said.

Chief Hahn said he is open to examining alternate ways of handling calls and “finding the best way to serve people.” But he added that there will still be times when the Department of Community Response will need police officers to respond, and without those officers, people’s lives will be at risk.

Valenzuela said she felt hopeful about the Tuesday’s city council budget discussions. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

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