Tempe City Council approves $2.5M budget increase for police department despite pushback

Contentious Meeting between speakers and councilors ends after 4 1/2 hours
Protestors spoke at the Tempe City Council meeting on Thursday night, telling the Mayor the money should go toward homeless groups and mental health centers.
Published: Jun. 10, 2022 at 5:40 AM MST|Updated: Jun. 10, 2022 at 7:53 AM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Tempe City Council approved adding $2.5M and 19 police positions to the upcoming budget for 2022-2023. There will be under ten sworn officers, and the rest will be positions within the Tempe Police Department. Mayor Corey Wood says these were frozen positions with the department. They aren’t newly added ones.

The meeting Thursday night was contentious. More than 50 speakers lined up to say they didn’t want that money going to the police department. Local homeless advocacy groups and Black Lives Matter held a protest before the meeting. They said Tempe Police Officers didn’t do enough to help Sean Bickings before he drowned on May 28. On a body-worn video, Bickings was saying he was going to drown when officers said they weren’t going in after him. The drowning has become a national story since.

People protesting in front of the city council say the department shouldn’t grow in the wake of Bickings’ death. Instead, they feel the money would be better used to fund schools, shelters, or mental health centers. Mayor Woods held a moment of silence for Bickings at the start of the meeting. Right after, people in the chambers started shouting. The mayor told people, “If you speak out, you will be removed.”

Although clapping and shouting continued, AZ Family’s reporter Michael Raimondi didn’t see anyone removed. People also started snapping their fingers to show support for a speaker. Towards the end of the night, some protesters began swearing at Councilwoman Lauren Kuby to hurry up and vote on the budget. The mayor had to threaten to end the meeting if people wouldn’t let the councilors get their turn at responding to comments made earlier in the night.

The council ended the night approving the budget and positions with Tempe PD. After the meeting, Mayor Woods said they were already having conversations about how to avoid another lake drowning. He said they are looking into having floating devices in squad cars. They’re also looking into putting floating devices around the lake in case someone isn’t around to help.