FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A police employee in Fort Worth, not an officer, might respond to future calls about minor accidents or a welfare check on a neighbor under a new proposal from Chief Ed Kraus.
The reorganization would be part of a plan that shifts money in a special crime control fund away from enforcement initiatives and over to prevention programs.
City council members were quick to emphasize the change was not a defunding of police that has gained traction in other cities, but a shifting of priorities.
Residents overwhelmingly approved renewing the Crime Control and Prevention District sales tax last month, which provides an additional $80 million for police.
Kraus proposed that next year the department would spend an additional $4.5 million of the fund on prevention efforts. Equipment and special enforcement expenses would be moved to the departments general budget.
The pilot program to handle non-violent calls would be a team of 10 employees, likely starting in just one zone of the city. The department determined there could be as many as 50,000 calls a year that could be handled by non-sworn officers.
“That’s 50,000 calls that officers aren’t having to answer,” Kraus said. “That’s time they can spend on their beat, being that beat officer we’ve been asking them to be, and it’s going to reduce response times.”
He also proposed added a second crisis intervention team that responds to mental health calls and expanding the staffing from six to 10 on each team. All offices would also be trained as mental health police officers.
Funding for partner programs in the community, including efforts like after school and family justice programs, would also be increased by more than $2 million.