Before Norman's 11-hour city council meeting where the Norman Police Department did not receive the funding increase it hoped for, Moore’s city council approved its budget without changes.
The Moore City Council approved its proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 Monday, with the city council allocating nearly $13 million of its $43 million general fund to the Moore Police Department.
This year's budget marks a slight increase in allocated funds for MPD, which was allocated a little more than $12 million in the 2019-2020 budget.
Norman's city council budget meeting Tuesday was a much different scene, as protesters advocating for defunding the Norman Police Department budget and supporters of NPD filled city hall. The city council eventually passed amendments that cut the proposed NPD budget by $865,000, meaning the NPD's budget received a 0.034% funding increase rather than the proposed 3.14% increase.
For Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis and city council members, the idea of cutting the MPD budget was never on the table.
“We were never going to make any cuts. If anything, we would increase the city budget if we could,” Lewis said. “We would like to add to programs like mental health and we'd like to see other programs started, but we're always short on money. We don't need to be cutting our officers. We have 92 officers and we need every single one of them.”
However, Moore city and police officials have been paying attention to Norman's budget and how it will impact its police officers.
Lewis said he is having discussions with Moore Police Chief Todd Gibson and Fire Chief Greg Herbster about potentially hiring any Norman police officers who are fired as a result of the budget decrease.
There are two empty police officer positions that were included in the MPD budget, Lewis said, and there are a small amount of officers who are considering retirement in the coming months. Gibson, who has served as an NPD officer and as Cleveland County sheriff, said while conversations are ongoing, the MPD would be excited to hire additional officers from Norman if the positions are open.
However, he noted that they would be subject to the same hiring process as anyone else who applies.
“We're always looking for quality people. We want the best,” Gibson said. “We also understand the City of Norman has outstanding officers, and they arguably have some of the best officers in Oklahoma. We think quality attracts quality. If they find themselves released, we would love for them to apply here. We have a high standard here and it's increasing every day, and we know Norman has outstanding law enforcement. We will support anyone who wants to apply, and if any Norman officer wants to apply, we would be happy to consider them.”
Lewis said there are several reasons the City of Moore would be happy to hire any NPD officers who lose their jobs, and said it would be mutually beneficial to Norman and Moore if the city hires NPD officers.
“They are already familiar with state law, and they're already certified,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day, we don't want anyone to lose their home or their livelihood. We would hope Norman would do the same (if we made cuts to our budget). (Current Norman officers) would still have to go through a hiring process, so we wouldn't be picking up any bad officers.”
People across the country have gathered to protest police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed while being restrained by police on May 25, and those protests have impacted Moore and Norman.
Moore had its first protest last week, when protesters gathered at Southwest 19th St. and Broadway Ave before marching to MPD, and another rally was scheduled for Juneteenth on Friday before being canceled due to weather.
Gibson said any potentially officers that are hired will be subject to several changes throughout MPD to help combat police brutality. Gibson said MPD recently had an internal policy review committee meeting where the department focused on changes to its use of force policy and increasing de-escalation tactics.
He also said MPD will also be engaged in diversity training.
“As chief of police I'm reaching out to other law enforcement leaders in the metro area and having discussions on structural changes that we can make throughout our organizations that can bring a higher level of standards and professionalisms to our residents and our officers,” Gibson said. “We also are looking at how we can better avoid misusing and abusing the power we have been given.”
While discussions in Norman and Moore continue to center around changes to their respective police departments, Moore City Manager Brooks Mitchell said the close proximity of the cities doesn't mean the issues are the same.
“Even though Moore and Norman are adjacent, (both cities have different issues),” Mitchell said. “We have great community support for the police and fire departments, and we continue to reevaluate what the needs for our city are and tinker with the budget to match those needs when necessary.”
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