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Dallas Social Justice Group Proposes Cutting $200 Million From Police Budget

The "Defund the police, fund the community" banner is seen among the crowd of around 100 people at Friday's community gathering at Dallas City Hall.
Keren Carrión
The "Defund the police, fund the community" banner is seen among the crowd of around 100 people at Friday's community gathering at Dallas City Hall.

The Dallas organization Our City Our Future is loudly calling for a major cut to the Dallas Police Department’s budget, alongside local police reform activists. The organization has proposed redirecting the funds to support community services.

"Cops will never be part of that solution of decreasing violence in our neighborhoods because they have power over us," said Kristian Hernandez, co-founder of Our City Our Future (OCOF). "That power is always inherently violent when they show up armed and when the institution itself is rooted in racism."

OCOF released a document on Wednesday called “2020 Our City Our Future Budget Demands," which proposes a $200 million cut from the Dallas Police Department’s proposed $500 million budget. The all-volunteer group wants to invest that money in areas like mental health, housing, homeless assistance programs and public places.

“Now is the time to invest in a safe, liberated future for our city,” reads OCOF's report. “It is resoundingly clear the people want a complete shift of power from police and punishment to people and care.”

OCOF is part of the coalition called In Defense of Black Lives, which is leading North Texas' effort to end the over-policing of Black and brown communities in the city. This is not the first time OCOF released a set of their demands. Last budget cycle, the organization released a version of the current document called “Our City Our Budget." This year’s efforts were geared more toward community engagement.

“I see the city budget as both a moral and political document. And people don’t always see that the police budget is growing at the expense of the resources that we need to survive and to thrive," Hernandez said.

OCOF’s proposed budget plan is divided into nine areas they say should be the city’s priorities of investment: Office of Integrated Public Safety, Public Infrastructure Improvements, Office of Homeless Assistance, Arts and Culture, Libraries, Parks and Recreation, Office of Economic Development, Office of Community Care and Various.

“This defund affects only about 35% of their (police) budget,” Hernandez said. “It’s completely doable.”

OCOF has proposed redirecting $30,400,000 to the Office of Integrated Public Safety to fund community resources like addiction recovery centers, that would help bridge the gap between communities and police. The funding would also go towards “Violence Interruptors,” a program that helps train volunteers to intervene and deescalate police interactions when necessary; and the RIGHT Care program, an existing city program that partners therapists and social workers from Parkland Health and Hospital System with police officers to respond to emergencies.

Dallas officials have released a proposal that adds $3.2 million for mental health services and increases housing, employment and other safety net resources, but doesn’t make large cuts to the police department.

“I needed to see this today,” Benj Pocta said on Instagram. “This budget is a budget written by these people for the people. A better world is possible.”

Pocta, a Dallas resident and and a member of Democratic Socialists of America of North Texas, said he served as an ambassador for OCOF. He has led Zoom meetings with people from Dallas’ District 1 to talk about their vision for the city budget.

OCOF said the city should reconsider its allocation of money. They urged city leaders to take their proposal into account during the city’s budget planning process.

“We’d like to see money go to funding civilian first responders," Hernandez said. "We’re also proposing money be spent on people experiencing homelessness especially our youth. And of course we are demanding money for our public places: parks, libraries, cultural centers."

Many members from OCOF and In Defense of Black Lives said they’ve attended virtual town hall budget meetings to make their voices heard, but have not been given a fair chance.They’ve instead hosted their own in-person, socially-distanced town hall called the “ People's Town Hall” at Dallas City Hall Plaza.

“We have no intention in stopping work even when this budget cycle is over because there will be another one next year,” Hernandez said.

The City Council will vote on the budget on Sept. 23. Until then, members from the coalition will continue to galvanize for a city budget that reflects the needs of people most affected by policing and poverty in the city.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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Copyright 2020 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Hispanic residents spoke at Friday's event at Dallas City Hall to demand the city spend money to fix their communities.
Keren Carrión / KERA
Hispanic residents spoke at Friday's event at Dallas City Hall to demand the city spend money to fix their communities.

Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 and its associated economic fallout on marginalized communities.