TULSA, Okla. — Like many across the country, equality activists in Tulsa have been peacefully protesting and asking the city to look into reallocating some of the annual police department budget.
Activists want some police department budget money to go to other community resources like mental health programs, drug abuse rehabilitation programs, job training and placement programs, and education programs -- a process called “defunding police departments.”
Local activist Greg Robison believes in the concept so much, he's using it as a key part of his platform in his campaign to be Tulsa's next mayor.
"If we have the courage as the city to move then I want to be standing right there with us as our mayor,” Robison said.
Activists like Robinson say defunding the police department is not about taking from those who protect and serve but giving to those who need it.
“We want to divest in law enforcement so we can invest in the people in the communities that need it the most," Robinson said. "Defunding the police is not talking about us living in a city where we are not protected. It's saying we need to take a look and to correct our priorities."
Robinson and fellow activists like Nate Morris, an organizer for Demanding a Just Tulsa, believe changing where some city money goes could cut down on police calls.
“If we put money into projects that would provide folks more access to more jobs, provide folks more access to better education, provide folks struggling with mental health more access to resources it would undoubtedly reduce issues of crime but it would reduce the burden on our current police force," Morris said.
However, not everyone thinks that concept is a good idea.
“Call me old fashioned but I think we actually want a police officer to stop a criminal before we try to work through his feelings," said Republican Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.
Activists say reallocating could prevent those criminals from being created.
"The issues that we see are rooted in poverty and rooted in systemic issues. So, if we aren’t addressing those systemic issues then we won’t address those root causes of why police are in the community," Morris said. "If we put money into more community programs and resources, we’d be addressing these issues on the from end and we wouldn’t be waiting and being reactive instead of proactive."
But across the country, others are concerned about what could it cost communities.
"If you’re going to go after salaries and benefits, you’re not going to hire the good police officers," said John Kazanjian from Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association. "It's a hard time right now hiring good police officers."
But Morris says the concept would help officers.
“Right now, we know that officers are asked to wear 100 different hats and part of the reason is that we are not adequately funding areas of mental health, we afferent adequately funding community projects, and we aren’t adequately funding other things that prove to be preventative measures," Morris said.
The Tulsa FOP tells us they will release a statement Friday about the “defunding police” concept in Tulsa.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.