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'We have to protect our community': Tacoma City Council proposes $5.6 million police budget increase

City council members hope funds for overtime for officers may stem the rising crime rate, but some organizers say more money isn't the most effective solution.

TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma City Council is looking to give its police department an additional $5.6 million in the hopes of curbing rising crime within the city. 

The council will vote on the proposal at its next meeting on Nov. 9. 

Three million dollars of the increase would go toward paying for overtime for Tacoma police officers, which could translate into more patrols in the city's neighborhoods.

The proposal also includes money for neighborhood monitoring technology and a campaign intended to recruit a more diverse pool of candidates for jobs on the police force.

The City of Tacoma already has 34% of its 2021-2022 budget set aside for the police department, but councilmember Robert Thoms says thanks to conservative budgeting, the city has funds to spare.

“We have roughly, if I’m not mistaken, about $20 million in excess funds, as opposed to what we budgeted for,” Thoms said. “It’s not coming out of any other programs, this is money that we didn’t think we were going to have that we now have available.”

Police say since 2019, there has been a rise in assault, motor vehicle thefts and homicides.

Thoms said while it's a small budget increase, it will hopefully help address the rise in crime. 

“The unfortunate four murders that happened just a week ago? Happened at 4:24pm in the afternoon, in broad daylight. When you don’t feel like there’s a lot of presence, I think it escalates the brazenness of those who would do bad things in the community,” Thoms said. “While we wrestle with those very weighty issues about policy on policing, it doesn’t change the fact that day in and day out, we have to protect our community.”

However, Chairman of the Washington State Commission of African American Affairs Will Hausa believes more money isn't the answer to the Tacoma Police Department's staffing problems or rising crime rates in the city. 

“Several municipalities have made it crystal clear that they are having a hard time finding qualified officers to fill those vacancies,” said Hausa. “There is a staff shortage around Western Washington that’s not going to be solved with a $5.6 million budget request.”

Hausa also pointed out that for many residents in Tacoma, more police patrols don't automatically equate to a feeling of safety.

“I believe that some folks in the community are not going to feel more safe seeing more patrol officers because they feel that those patrol officers are not looking at them as citizens, they’re looking at them as potential criminals,” Hausa said.

Taking a more community-based approach to addressing the root causes of Tacoma's rise in crime would be the best approach, Hausa said. 

“This budget request only attacks the outcome of the problem and not the root cause, and I think some people may be satisfied with addressing the outcome, and the result, but ultimately, to truly deal with the issue, we need to deal with the root cause of these problems,” he said.