Heated Evansville City Council meeting over police funding proposal

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) Members of Evansville City Council faced backlash and an emotional round of public speakers during Monday’s meeting after a proposal introduced by President Alex Burton would move funds from the police department’s budget, but wouldn’t lower the amount of funding they receive.

Burton wants to move $250,000 from EPD’s overall budget and add those dollars to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Burton says he then wants to move another $250,000 generated from the public safety local income tax to EPD’s budget.

Burton’s amendment says that the change will have no impact on EPD’s overall budget.

“Moving those funds into the budget really just speaks to the amount people we have in our community who are having challenges as it relates to housing,” Burton said.

Several people on the podium did not hold back during public comment. Several speakers said the council wasn’t listening to their concerns.

“I’m going to tell you something and I will not be the only one, what’s going to happen in Evansville if funding is not kept up for the police department, people are not going to feel safe and they are going to move out of Vanderburgh County and will not want to stay here,” said Evansville resident Theresa Finn. “Does that make sense to anyone up here?”

Evansville City Council members Justin Elpers, Jonathan Weaver and Missy Mosby spoke out publicly against Burton’s amendment.

Councilman Jonathan Weaver called Burton’s amendment a “net loss of $250,000 for Evansville Police. That’s an amendment to defund police.”

Councilman Justin Elpers said Burton’s amendment is “poor judgement and poor leadership on his part.” He urged Burton to withdraw the amendment.

Councilwoman Missy Mosby says at the end of the day you can call it what you want, but “when you start talking about taking money from the police and fire department, and public safety, it is defunding police, fire and public safety.”

Councilman Jonathan Weaver has requested a three percent funding cut to the city’s budget. Weaver introduced a similar proposal in 2018.

Council member Ron Beane reacted to Weaver’s proposal.

“We are not defunding the police,” Councilman Ron Beane said. “There’s only one request we have seen that asks for funding reduction from the police department and it came from a councilman who questioned me on this, he requested a three percent reduction for operating expenses for police and fire.”

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke’s spokesman Noah Stubbs said the mayor won’t have a comment right now on the ongoing 2021 budget deliberations.

The mayor proposed more than $37 million this year for Evansville Police Department’s budget and he said back in June that he would not consider diverting funding from the police department’s budget to other areas.

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(This story was originally published on September 14, 2020)

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