budget session SS

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission is considering three proposals for police funding in its fiscal year 2021 budget. (Screenshot/ACC YouTube)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed different plans for the funding of the ACC Police Department in the next fiscal year in a livestreamed work session Thursday.

The commission is considering the 50/10 Plan, proposed by Commissioners Mariah Parker and Tim Denson, and the S.T.A.R.T Athens Plan proposed by Commissioners Ovita Thornton, Patrick Davenport, Allison Wright, Mike Hamby and Andy Herod.

District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link also proposed another plan to “build some bridge” between the two plans proposed by her fellow commissioners.

The 50/10 Plan would reduce the size of the ACCPD by 50% over the next 10 years. The plan would fund community resources, including mental health professionals and social workers.

The plan is projected to cost $555,100. Parker and Denson list several ways to offset the cost of the plan, including a 120-day vacancy period before filling new job openings, which they say will save $800,000.

On Wednesday, over 100 residents gave comments at the budget public input period. Many voiced support for or opposition to the 50/10 Plan.

The S.T.A.R.T. Athens plan, which stands for Steps Toward Anti-Racism Together, has similar goals but different items. The proposal lists the items and their cost, which totals $12 million.

Link said that these are not the kind of policies to propose during budget season because they need further data analysis and community feedback. She said one proposal had “very bold goals,” but a broad approach on how to get there. She also said that both plans include programs that the ACC government has already implemented.

Instead of the 50/10 or S.T.A.R.T Athens plans, Link proposes the creation of a public safety and community building task force that would address the public safety needs of the community, such as homelessness and substance abuse. She said the mission is to partner with the Clarke County School District and others to develop a community-based process to develop a new approach to public safety by investing in community projects.

Denson and Parker pushed to include language that would commit the committee to exploring a reduction of investments in armed police response in Link’s plan. Parker asked for a 50% reduction of armed police forces and transition of those funds to public safety interventions, and Denson asked for a third of armed officers to be transitioned to crisis intervention officers.

As a response, Davenport said that giving the committee a numerical goal would undermine the creation of a community-based committee in the first place.

“Think about how revolutionary it would be to have a community base with stakeholders, with civic leaders, with church folk, with school people, to say you know what — let’s reimagine our police force,” Davenport said. Davenport said he did not want special interest groups or politicians giving the committee goals.

The commissioners said they will continue to discuss the proposal and work out the language of the proposal before the budget vote.

The mayor and commission will vote on the fiscal year 2021 budget on June 25.

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