What's In San Antonio's 2022 City Budget For Police Services?
The City of San Antonio's budget for the next fiscal year includes a 3.8% bump for the San Antonio Police Department, which will fund a pilot program that aims to better respond to 911 mental health crisis calls, and pay for 15 additional neighborhood-specific and downtown bike patrol officers.
At $3.1 billion, San Antonio’s FY 2022 budget is projected to be the largest in its history. About $1.3 billion of that is allocated to the general fund which funds the majority of city operations including police services.
What went into budget planning process? How was community input about police services incorporated? Did the pandemic-induced budget shortfall impact the city's funding allocations?
The budget for police services adds 15 new officers — 12 for the SAFFE unit's community policing efforts and three for downtown bike patrol.
There will also be shifts in responsibility for certain 911 calls, redirecting lower-priority calls that are typically met with a law enforcement responses to other departments including code enforcement, the San Antonio Fire Department and Animal Care Services.
The budget also funds a pilot program that aims to better address calls related to an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. With the new approach, a paramedic, a health clinician, and a police officer jointly respond to mental health calls, instead of relying solely on a traditional law enforcement response which is often prone to escalation.
Since 2015, nearly 25% of people killed by police officers in the U.S. have had a known mental illness.
What evidence is there that a combined approach will improve the response to mental health calls and overall outcomes for individuals in crisis?
When will the pilot program begin and what are the measures of success? What are the biggest challenges? Can this type of crisis intervention program result in substantive change?
The San Antonio City Council is expected to adopt the final version of the FY 2022 budget on September 16.
- Erik Walsh, San Antonio City Manager
- Chief William McManus, San Antonio Police Department
- B.J. Wagner, senior fellow of justice system policy at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
- Jalen McKee-Rodriguez, San Antonio City Council representative for District 2
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday , September 8.