Phoenix Council rejects plan to boost funds for police oversight

After days of protests against the police-involved deaths of Dion Johnson and George Floyd, demonstrators turned out Wednesday to call on the Phoenix City Council to cut funding for the police department in next year’s budget. /Photo courtesy Poder in Action

By Farah Eltohamy | Cronkite News

The Phoenix City Council narrowly rejected a plan Wednesday that would have sharply increased funding for a newly established civilian oversight committee for the police department.

The council voted 5-4 against the proposal to raise funding for the new Office of Accountability and Transparency from $400,000 to $2.9 million, saying it was more important to get the office up and running first and that funds could be added later as needed.

The vote capped six hours of budget debate that was dominated by speakers demanding that the council cut overall funding for the police department, currently proposed at $721 million for fiscal 2021. That decision was put off until Monday, however, as the council voted to continue its budget debate then.

Wednesday’s hearing came on the heels of days of clashes between police and demonstrators protesting the deaths last week of Dion Johnson in Phoenix and George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, no members of the public were allowed in the council chambers for Wednesday’s hearing, but hundreds of protesters gathered outside and 183 signed up to speak on the budget, calling in their comments for close to four hours of the six-hour meeting. Even though they were kept outside, booming chants of “black lives matter” could be heard inside the council chambers on the streaming video of the hearing.

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