Jun. 14—City councilors on Tuesday approved a $796,541 budget increase for the Norman Police Department, and voted to give the department the exact amount that council reallocated from NPD's proposed budget increase in 2020.
The city will put $570,691 more from its general fund and $225,850 more from its public safety sales tax toward NPD to pay for contractual increases to police salaries, according to a budget amendment passed Tuesday. The council additionally voted to give NPD $865,321, the amount reallocated from the department in 2020 to fund community programs and an internal audit function.
The $865,321 given to NPD is from approximately $1.3 million set aside in Fiscal Year 2021 from revenue that outpaced expenditures, city manager Darrel Pyle said. It will be used to add back nine positions cut in 2020 that will be used in a departmental restructure, he said.
Pyle said the return of $865,321 to the NPD does not take any dollars from the community programs the council voted to fund in 2020. He said council added approximately $500,000 the following year to the money allocated from the nine empty positions.
"That revenue is still there for those programs," Pyle said.
The amendment voted on during Tuesday's annual budget approval meeting will add $796,541 to NPD's $24.8 million budget originally proposed to council by Pyle. The original proposed budget includes the money given back from the 2020 reallocation.
The motion for the increase passed 8-1, with Ward 1 Councilor Brandi Studley voting against. After her vote, Studley told The Transcript she hasn't seen any progress from NPD in community policing initiatives, and she wanted Council to be involved in the bargaining process before approving the increase.
Pyle said after the meeting that NPD will use the $865,321 in the original budget in its departmental restructure, which will begin its rollout July 1. The restructure would add a Community and Staff Services Bureau to cover training, records, crime analysis, community outreach, traffic and school resources, police say.
Council reallocated $865,321 in 2020 in the wake of national protests that spurred debate over whether money given to police could be used for social services that could lower crime. To reallocate the money, they cut seven empty officer positions and then cut two more after officers who were about to retire left.
In 2021, NPD Chief Kevin Foster used the departmental restructure and a rise in violent and serious property crimes in the city to argue for the nine positions back. Police Capt. Stacey Clement argued the restructure — which would utilize the nine positions — will allow NPD to focus more precisely on a handful of suspects who cause most of Norman's problems.
According to Pyle, councilors said in January that they would like to see the nine positions added back for the restructure. He said councilors believe the restructure will effectively address issues in the city like homelessness.
This is a developing story.