By District 3 Councilwoman
As the City of Phoenix budget season is underway, Phoenix aims to expand a program meant to strengthen accountability, transparency and trust related to public safety as well as improve response times.
The Community Advocacy Program (CAP) is a civilian program currently housed in the Phoenix Fire Department. The program is an innovative approach to respond to crisis calls for service with mental health experts rather than police officers. This approach strengthens health outcomes and frees up officers and firefighters to focus on responding to other emergencies, shortening response times. With this trial budget, city staff is proposing a significant increase in resources of $15 million and about 130 positions to expand the program over the next two to three years.
Staff has conducted research of other cities that have implemented civilian-only response models, and they have proved successful in helping people and reducing negative interactions with sworn personnel. This recommendation will also involve creating a public-private partnership with a third-party behavioral health provider to ensure individuals suffering with mental and behavioral health conditions receive ongoing case management and counseling services.
Additionally, more than $5 million in the budget also calls for other public safety reforms by adding more 911 operators, reducing wait times for police public records, improving the HR management system, and more comprehensive reporting of crime data.
Every spring, the city of Phoenix is tasked with putting together a balanced budget, which is developed with extensive community involvement. Throughout the month of April, residents provided valuable input in a series of virtual community meetings to help shape the operating budget. The budget funds departments, programs and services citywide that impact residents’ daily life, such as streets, libraries, parks, senior centers, public safety, and much more.
With a projected surplus of $135 million (made up of $98 million in one-time funding and $55 million in on-going funding), staff was able to allocate $35 million to address important needs raised by the Council and the community. In addition to allocating funds for public safety reform and responsiveness, staff is also proposing to allocate funds to address other community needs, including COVID-19 response and resiliency; climate change and heat readiness; affordable housing and homelessness; building community and responding to growth; and administrative accountability.
The Phoenix City Council will approve the budget in a series of votes in May through July. To view the proposed budget and learn how to submit public input, visit phoenix.gov/budget.