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Fort Worth Police Department Looks At Ways To Shift Some Responsibilites To Non-Officers

In this photo, a man with white hair, wearing a police uniform, stands speaking at a podium with microphones in front of him.
Tony Gutierrez
/
Associated Press
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus.

Fort Worth's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year does not include a decrease in police funding. However, some of the money from the Crime Control and Prevention District — the half-cent sales tax that generates tens of millions of dollars for the department — could fund some new initiatives.

So, the Fort Worth Police Department is using the city budget process to look at ways to reduce the number of police officers' responsibilities.

One of the proposed new items is the Community Service Officer program, a 10-person team that would respond to nonviolent calls.

RELATED | Fort Worth's Proposed Budget Keeps Police Funding Intact, Prepares For Recession Stress

Police Chief Ed Kraus presented the idea to the City Council on Friday. He gave the example of a business owner who realizes on a Monday that they were robbed over the weekend.

"A suspect is not on scene. We don't necessarily need to send an officer to that to take that report call. We can send one of these individuals,” he said.

The CCPD budget proposal also includes an expansion of the department's mental health crisis intervention team, or CIT, from one team of six officers with a corporal and a sergeant to two teams of 10. That expansion would cover all but the mightnight to 6 a.m. shift, seven days a week, Kraus said.

Local activists have been saying for months that officers should not be the ones responding to mental health calls.

A recent report from an outside panel of policing experts describes the department's current crisis intervention team program as "wholly inadequate." The report recommends that the department have every shift staffed with several CIT officers, in every district. 

The report also says the department should train non-CIT officers in mental health response, something Kraus says the department wants to do. He also wants to put mental health professionals first in responding to mental health crises instead of officers.

Earlier this summer, local activists campaigned to end the CCPD sales tax. Critics said the funding should be redirected to community groups and other areas outside of policing. However, voters renewed it for another 10 years in the July 14 election.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price pointed to that victory as evidence that the people of Fort Worth want their police department well-funded.

“I want them to know that I'm never going to support defunding our police department, and I don't believe the majority of this council will, either,” she said. 

Dallas' proposed budget also keeps police funding intact.

Austin's City Council is looking to make bigger cuts. Its budget proposal would slash the city's police budget by 34%, KUT reports.

A public hearing on the CCPD budget is scheduled for Aug. 18.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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