Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Amid calls across the nation to defund police departments, many have asked Santa Fe city councilors – by email, phone call and “in person” at virtual city meetings – to do the same.
The Santa Fe Police Department specifically saw its budget decrease by 11.6% to just under $25 million, with the department’s administrative division seeing almost all of the cuts.
But for many participating in public comment Wednesday, the cuts did not go far enough.
“I’m concerned that we’re not answering the call of our most marginalized community members to defund the police,” said Allison Fabara, one of dozens of people who spoke before the council.
Fabara and other speakers argued councilors should divert funding for SFPD to other areas of the city, such as Affordable Housing, which has a total operating budget of $2.4 million for the year. Fabara said Santa Fe While Black, a local group advocating for racial justice, had asked the city to defund SFPD by 50%.
SFPD Chief Andrew Padilla said cutting the department’s budget would affect the number of officers the department could hire and thereby impact response times, something some councilors had brought up as an issue.
“If we were to take that reduction in force and defund the police, those response times are only going to increase,” Padilla said.
He said the department was in the process of returning a tank and Humvee, the latter of which had been used for recruiting.
Mayor Alan Webber said returning the vehicles shows the city is demilitarizing its police department, which has been another point of concern since the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May.
While no councilor voiced support for a 50% decrease in funds, many said the department could improve operations. That same night, councilors approved the creation of a Health and Safety Task Force, meant to reexamine the future role of the department.
“I think it’s about trying to find the right response to the right needs,” said Councilor Renee Villarreal, a co-chair of the task force.
However, Daniel Strongwater, who also spoke at the meeting, told the Journal he wished the public had been included in budget discussions from the start.
“If the budget is a reflection of our values and morals as a city government, then it really needs to include the community,” he said.