ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

This story was updated at 5:44 p.m. on Monday, June 15, 2020, with more information.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke will present an alternative budget to the City Council on Tuesday as part of ongoing reforms to law enforcement in the city.

Berke proposes to move the Family Justice Center from the police department to a new Office of Community Resilience, which will oversee social work, recidivism reduction programs and other community interventions that do not require a uniformed police officer.

The Monday announcement comes after nearly three weeks of protests in Chattanooga and across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man, under the knee of a white Minnesota police officer. Last week, more than 140 people spoke during the time for public comments to ask the council to defund the police force.

Berke said he made his decision after listening to protesters but said he will not defund the police because local law enforcement needs to be able to carry out core functions.

"I do not believe that we should defund the police," Berke said. "We need a skilled, highly trained, collaborative department that uses the best rules so that we can keep people as safe as possible."

(READ MORE: 7 demands from 7 nights of George Floyd protests in Chattanooga)

Leaders of Chattanooga's weeks-long protest movement called Berke's announcement incomplete. They asked the city to pause the budgeting discussion planned for Tuesday to take a deeper look at ways to invest in the community that include the demands of people who have gathered on the streets.

Activist and council candidate Marie Mott said Berke's new office likely will include people from outside the communities most in need. The mayor's announcement showed "little commitment" to the demands of the young people central to the city's movement, she said.

"Leadership often oversteps the voice of the people and the demands of the people," Mott said. "This process of what we are expecting is participatory budgeting, which means what we're actually going to bring the community into the conversation of how we reallocate those funds into social services and resources that are lacking in our community."

Mott and Cameron "C-Grimey" Williams said they would like a participatory budget board that includes local activists and organizers to create solutions that do not include police.

Along with the Family Justice Center, the Office of Community Resilience will combine some of the work of the Office of Public Safety and other city programs. The Office of the Chief of Police will provide $150,000 to help with the new office, according to a statement from the mayor's office.

During the 2020 fiscal year, the city approved 44% of its budget, or $120 million, to go to public safety, including $73 million going to city police. From the total police funding, $669,597, or less than 1%, went to the Family Justice Center, according to data from the city of Chattanooga.

Mott described the amount of money proposed to fund the new office as "crumbs of crumbs" compared to the amount of money going to police every year.

Putting extra money into the new office will be extremely difficult because of the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Berke said.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT