Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall this month recommended a nearly $21 million budget increase for the Salt Lake City Police Department in 2022, with the majority earmarked for staff increases.
If approved, the proposal would represent the department’s largest budget increase in at least a decade. Last year’s budget saw an increase of nearly $4.3 million for the department, increasing SLCPD’s overall budget to $83,370,502.
This year’s recommendation would bring the City Police Department’s budget to $103,944,583.
Here’s how the extra money would be spent:
Where would most of the money go?
Most of the proposed increase — nearly $8.3 million — would be used to fund police pay changes announced by Mendenhall last summer.
These salary increases amounted to a 30% salary increase for entry-level officials and a 12% increase for senior officials, enabling the department to run the state Law enforcement agencies pay, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.
“It’s a commitment on my part — that because the work of the Salt Lake City Police Department is absolutely unique, Salt Lake City should strive to achieve a leadership position in the state,” Mendenhall told The Salt Lake Tribune.
The salary increases announced on June 25, 2021 were originally funded by a portion of Salt Lake City’s $85,411,572 allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Under the new proposal, the city’s general fund would pay for the ongoing salary changes — and other salary proposals, including an additional $3.9 million recommended salary allocation this year, which translates to a 4.5% general salary increase for non-payers unionized police officers.
Allocations for new programs designed to bring about “systemic change”.
Although the bulk of the Salt Lake Police Department’s budget is earmarked for pay changes, the proposal includes Lots of new policies that the Commission on Racial Equality in Police Services believes will effectively transform the department.
“These aren’t the big, sexy, flashy changes — these are the long-term changes,” said Nicole Salazar-Hall, chair of the commission.
“It’s the solid foundation on which we must build a better police agency,” Salazar-Hall continued, adding, “It’s really what we wanted — which is long-term, systemic policing change.”
The proposed “civilian response team” is one of the department’s largest policy-based undertakings over the next fiscal year.
The team handles low priority calls that do not require a sworn officer, including auto break-ins with no suspects on site, property damage, threats, suspicious persons and undesirables on a property.
It was recommended by the department’s 2020-21 City Council audit – and endorsed by the Commission on Racial Justice in Policing.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said the department is looking to hire a lieutenant to oversee the team as soon as possible, once approved by the council. The department then hopes to fill civilian positions on the team in January to have them available for deployment by March 2023.
“Our intention is to expand this program with non-sworn officers who are trained in the proper way to handle these types of reports,” Brown said. “We will also ensure that these civilians are in contact with the patrol supervisors – so that a call that needs to go to the field is routed correctly and quickly.”
However, some feel these new positions only scratch the surface when it comes to the police overhaul they believe is necessary.
Pegasus Blaise Collonge, a volunteer with the prison abolitionist organization Decarcerate Utah, said the only “bright spot” for such a team is when its assigned staff are aware of what Collonge calls “fundamental” issues with the police.
“If the civilian response team knows that the institution is inherently flawed — the police part,” Cologne said, “then these civilians can have solutions and an ideology in their heads that work better … to creatively solve problems that don’t including.” the violence of the police.”
The team was an idea that members of the Racial Justice Commission had discussed informally before the commission even officially existed.
But for Salazar-Hall, the commission’s chair, the most anticipated new budget item is the department’s planned investment in its Promising Youth Program.
The program works with other community groups in Salt Lake City to help children ages 8-18 develop life skills through projects and outdoor activities. The organization runs a 15-week program for these activities that addresses “specific social factors that predispose youth to violence, crime, and gang involvement.”
“It increases law enforcement’s presence with children in a positive way, not a negative way,” Salazar-Hall said of the program. “We do not want to [children] seeing them as the enemy, because our ideal version of law enforcement is really a group of people helping our city — people aren’t afraid of them, they see them as a sign of safety for everyone.”
The draft budget allocates nearly $274,000 to four full-time positions under the program; three were previously funded under grants that expire in July. This money would also cover expenses such as supplies.
Another budget item that the commission has specifically recommended is the addition of an outreach and recruitment coordinator who will work to build relationships with historically disenfranchised communities in Salt Lake City and promote law enforcement careers in those communities.
Collonge believes these new positions do not portend a transformation in policing, but are patch-aid solutions to a much larger problem that cannot be solved with a larger budget. He would rather see the department’s budget cut and existing funds redistributed to non-police workers Solutions.
“With that extra money, so much more good could be done for human life, human dignity, for anti-racist work, for all kinds of good things,” Collonge continued. “[It] could help many, many more people than just a few officers’ salaries.”
Salazar Hall acknowledged that impact – and change – would take time, but she reiterated that the current budget aims to actively fund such internal and external departmental changes that the commission hopes to see.
“The long-term effects that we hoped for from instilling a positive culture in the Salt Lake City Police Department will probably not be felt for several years after that,” Salazar-Hall said.
“I think we have some good people in leadership positions that we can mentor and lead with the right behavior that we want to see,” she added. “But that will take time.”
Fill vacancies for officers – and completely new positions
At the time of the salary increases announced last year, the Salt Lake City Police Department had over 60 officers at work.
Chief Mike Brown said the department has now lost 37 officers and while they’re making “great progress” on recruiting and hiring, the agency still has a long way to go.
The budget proposal would add 33 new full-time staff to the department, most of whom would be civilians. Three police social workers were transferred to the fire service, so the additional posts would bring a net addition of 30 staff to the department.
Of the 33 new full-time employees, 21 would be civilians – including 12 members of the proposed civilian response team; four youth specialists in the Promising Youth Program; a program director for victim advocates; a victim advocate coordinator; a victim advocate; a public records program manager; and a community outreach/recruiting coordinator.
Those 21 positions account for about $1.61 million of the nearly $21 million budget increase for SLCPD, of which about 93% is personal services — including last year’s salary changes and the 4.5% increase in this year, among other posts.
The other 12 full-time employees include a sworn director for the civilian response team, a sergeant to oversee the Special Victims Unit and 10 new officers to form a recently approved violent crimes unit. These officers account for about $754,000 of the budget.
The new positions would increase the department’s full-time workforce to 750 this year, up from 720 last fiscal year.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for June 7 at 7 p.m. City council could approve the proposal as early as June.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/06/01/salt-lake-city-police-may/ Salt Lake City police could get nearly $21 million budget increase It would go here.