Taylor proposes using WSPD funding to fight poverty and recidivism

Taylor proposes using WSPD funding to fight poverty and recidivism
June 10
15:25 2020

The City’s Public Safety Committee has approved a resolution that will move $1 million in appropriated funding from the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) to programs and initiatives geared toward fighting poverty and recidivism.

If approved by the council, the resolution presented by Councilman James Taylor, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee and publisher of  The Chronicle, would allow city officials to move $1 million in funding from the WSPD for fiscal year 2020-2021. A breakdown of the $1 million appropriation shows funding going toward doubling the class size for the SOAR (Successful Outcomes After Release) Program, doubling the resources for youth summer employment opportunities, raise city government minimum wage to $14 an hour, and increase funding to help community residents with rental/eviction assistance.

Currently there are 40 vacant positions within the WSPD; the proposed resolution would take 15 of those positions and reallocate the money to address the root causes of crime. While several cities across the country are discussing the complete defunding of police departments in response to the murder of George Floyd, Taylor said that isn’t what’s happening here.

“In no way are we trying to have anything considered about dismantling the Police Department, we just wanted to make sure everyone was treated equally and fairly under the law and that money goes where it can be used to address the root causes of crime,” Taylor said. “This isn’t us going against the police department, this is simply us standing with the police department.”

Before making the motion to table a vote, Taylor said the one year allocation of funds has already received support from the Winston-Salem Police Association and Chief Catrina Thompson. “This is a one-time deal and I think this is the right thing to do,” Taylor continued. “If we don’t speak up for what’s right in this city, then who will?”

Chief Thompson said she was open to the resolution as long as it’s not long term. She said the department is currently facing challenges getting full recruiting classes and the 15 positions would probably not be filled before the end of the year.

“Officers are asked to do a lot and we want to be able to continue to meet the requests and expectations,” Thompson said. “So as long as we can do the balance of both and this is not something we’re talking about doing beyond this next fiscal year, I can be in support of it.”

The resolution received mixed reviews from the public during the public comment portion of the meeting. Jo Frazier, who has lived in Winston-Salem all her life, said she has concerns with moving funding from the police department. She said although she believes the other programs are important, the $1 million needs to stay with the police department.

“If there are 40 positions vacant … and we’re going to take 15, I just think that’s a bad allocation of funds,” Frazier said. “I just really want you to look at all the departments that are providing resources to make sure that we’re spending the money correctly.”

Local pastor Scott Bowen said he would love to see the City Council pass the resolution. “I would love to see money go to people in poverty,” Bowen said.

After a brief discussion among members of the Public Safety Committee and other members of the City Council in attendance, the resolution passed unanimously 3-0. The full council is expected to vote on the resolution on Monday, June 15. The meeting will be held at the Benton Convention Center at 7 p.m.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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