Oklahoma City Council begins 2013-14 budget work

Oklahoma City Council members said adding police officers is the top priority for the 2013-14 budget.
by William Crum Published: April 29, 2013

Look for Oklahoma City to keep adding officers to the police force.

City council members said enhancing public safety is their primary goal for the 2013-14 budget. Budget deliberations begin Tuesday with a presentation by City Manager James Couch.

“Of course it's a runaway No. 1,” said Larry McAtee, who represents southwest Oklahoma City's Ward 3. “Without public safety, all the other items fall down.”

The council added enough new positions last year to bring the police department's authorized strength to 1,076, said John George, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union.

About 985 of those positions are filled, he said; more will be filled as recruits graduate from the training academy and join the force.

George said he believes the “commitment is there” to increase the force to around 1,250 officers.

That would bring Oklahoma City in line with other cities and address concerns about slow response times and a lack of police presence in neighborhoods, he said.

But the city can't get there by holding funding hostage to the yearly budget debate, he said.

“We have no plan for how we're going to grow the police department,” George said.

He contrasted police funding to MAPS, the building program that receives a set portion of sales tax revenue to fund specific projects.

“I'm just saying that's the only way it's going to work,” George said. “That's what the FOP would like to see.”

Top priority

Public safety will get about $78 million this year, divided evenly among police and fire, from a dedicated portion of the sales tax, but that's a fraction of the overall public safety budget.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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