The city of Fort Worth will be increasing its police budget and creating a division of non-armed officers for the upcoming fiscal year.
The increase, which was approved by the city council this morning, will raise the FWPD budget from $267 million to $272 million. The police department is the largest single item in the city’s $782 million general fund.
Fort Worth’s decision contrasts with that of other large Texas cities, such as Dallas and Austin, which have decided to decrease their police department’s budget. Austin cut its police department’s budget by $150 million, and Dallas is cutting its police overtime budget by $7 million.
The new unarmed division of the police department will be filled with social workers and other people trained to respond to situations that do not need an armed officer.
“We are creating a new division of the police department that includes only non-sworn employees, so nobody with a badge or a gun,” said city councilman Brian Byrd.
HOPE teams (Homeless Outreach Program Enforcement) are responsible for responding to situations involving homelessness, and CIT teams (Crisis Intervention Teams) are responsible for responding to situations involving mental health crises.
“We need these teams to be more available to us,” Byrd said. “Right now they are only available eight hours a day so we are going to expand that to 16.”
Byrd said the police department often gets called to situations that do not necessarily need an officer. This new division will help the police department respond to these situations without pulling an officer out of the field.
Other cities such as Denver, Colorado, are adding similar divisions to their police department.
The budget maintains the city’s tax rate of 74.75 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. However, rising property values mean that many taxpayers will see an increase in their bill.