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Defund SAPD? Activists call police budget inflated as local leaders prepare to review policy

Citizens call for action from city leaders, saying the budget allocated to the police department is too high, and other areas are neglected.

SAN ANTONIO — Demands to defund police departments are being made across the country, including here in the Alamo City. 

Last week citizens voiced their concerns to City Council members, asking city leaders to either defund the department or cut the budget.

“It would be in the best interest of public safety to defund San Antonio police,” said one citizen to city council.

Other citizens are upset that programs like Health and Human Services are being neglected, saying the police budget was inflated.

“Our city budgets have made the priority clear, policing over people,” said one citizen.

The total city budget for 2020 is $2.9 billion with $1.2 billion going into the general fund, 64 percent of the general funds goes to fund police and fire services at the cost of over $820 million.

Out of that $820 million, over $300 million goes to the Fire Department, $17 million to Park Police, and over $479 million to the Police Department. The city allocates just over $52 million to Housing, Health & Human Services.

KENS 5 reached out to the San Antonio Police Officers’ Association who said in a statement, “Our budget is already paper thin, asking to remove monies from our police budget means forfeiting some form of police action which in any circumstance is bad public policy.”

We asked San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg if defunding the police department, or drastically cutting the budget is an option in San Antonio.

“Number one, we have to really understand what is the domain of the collective bargaining agreement and what the council actually has discretion over in terms of funding before we can really answer that question,” he said.

Nirenberg also said that nationwide city budgets are being consumed by public safety departments where everything else is left behind.

“In a sense from a program and infrastructure and services standpoint, things like libraries and parks and safe streets and child nutrition programs, those things are being tightened up every single day as our budgets grow, and so if we’re going to do that, we end up in a situation where we’re producing the results that we have to police, and there’s something wrong with that,” said Nirenberg. “We have to start with building safe and healthy communities in every part of our community and that is way more than just policing it.”

Nirenberg will be meeting with City Council on Wednesday to review the policies, procedures, and protocols of the police department.

“We do not allow choke holds and those kinds of techniques, that’s going to be clarified at the public police department,” said Nirenberg.  “A lot of those things have been implemented during the tenure of Police Chief McManus already, so we’re going to see what those gaps are and then we’re going to make sure we’re maintaining a gold standard here in San Antonio.”

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