CINCINNATI — The calls from citizens came in loud and clear during a June hearing demanding the Cincinnati police budget be chopped. That never happened, but the debate continues with more and more people now speaking out on the other side.
Cincinnati City Councilmember Betsy Sundermann has now filed a motion to maintain police contracts at their current levels for next year.
“I don’t want to defund the police,” Sundermann said. “I’m open to some kind of program where we try out social workers and therapists. But the way to try ... is to add to some social workers and see how it goes. The way to do it is to not drastically defund the police and then add social workers.”
Sundermann, a former judge and one of council's newest members, has called for police funding to stay intact. Right now, the Cincinnati Police Department receives about $152 million from the city's general fund.
The city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police expires in May, so negotiations will begin early next year.
The contract includes typical union-negotiated terms like salaries, overtime provisions and healthcare benefits, but it also lays out how the department handles discipline.
Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils said the contract is important for both the city and police to ensure fairness and to attract quality officers.
“You want people of good sound moral character, smart, educated, and if you’re going to recruit someone like that to do a job for 25 or 30 or more years, you’re going to have to entice them with a living wage and a plan for retirement and all those things,” Hils said.
For Sundermann, the recent uptick in violent crime is all the more reason to keep the funding.
“Homicides are through the roof, overdoses are through the roof,” she said.
She believes all those calling to “defund” the police over the last few month are outnumbered.
“For every person that came to speak in person, I got a phone call or an email or a private message contrary to what they said. I think there is a silent majority out there who wants the opposite of what they want," she said.
Sundermann hopes the motion will spark some conversation among Council to make clear where each person stands on funding for the police department.