San Diego Police Department

If Not Police Departments, Where Should the Money Go?

Certain politicians and officers agree law enforcement is stretched too thin

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Days after San Diego City Councilmembers voted to increase the San Diego Police Department’s budget, some city and county leaders are examining police reform compromises through law enforcement funding "adjustment" and "reprogramming."

“I really believe we have to restructure how we police our city,” said SD City Councilmember Monica Montgomery during a Facebook live "Community Healing Address" on Friday.

Montgomery apologized for the hurt she caused when she did not vote to "Defund the Police" as protesters and activists have demanded but acknowledged the challenge of making last-minute cuts when not all council members were on board.

“We’re all competing for the same pot, and the same resources and we’re not always on the same page,” she said of her fellow councilmembers.

But when it comes to reexamining what police officers should be responsible for, there appears to be common ground when it comes to mental health and homelessness.

“I don’t believe officers should be going out on mental health calls. I really believe that there’s a better way of dealing with our unsheltered brothers and sisters,” Montgomery said.

“We shouldn’t be the ones that should be leading the charge when it comes to trying to help people who have homelessness issues or mental health issues,” San Diego Police Officers Association president Jack Schaeffer told NBC 7 last week.

So while city leaders like Montgomery plan to now look at SDPD’s budget to “make informed decisions on potential reprogramming,” the county is looking ahead to its own budget talks.

One proposal from County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher will focus on addressing mental health without a badge and a gun.

“We need a county-wide Mobile Crisis Outreach Team where you call a non-emergency response line, and a trained clinician responds,” explained Supervisor Fletcher.

The Board’s lone Democrat has championed such a mental-health oriented team to take certain burdens off of law enforcement since before the police killing of George Floyd.

“They’re trained, they have compassion and empathy and patience, and they’re there to…deescalate and get them into the right level of care and treatment,” Fletcher said.

And approving such a program could mean taking funds from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office.

“I think if we’re going to alleviate a significant burden from law enforcement, and they’re not going to have to respond to these anymore, then it would seem appropriate that we could make an adjustment,” Fletcher argued.

But in this polarized moment will an "adjustment" be enough? Or too much?

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