In the April 10 discussion, Councilman Brian Haynes asked his colleagues if they would consider cutting an additional $1 million in funding to the Asheville Police Department that council approved last year. Police Chief Tammy Hooper made the controversial request last year, citing the need for more officers to police downtown. City Council approved it.
But over the past two months, City Council has been dealing with the fall out from the publication of police body cam video showing an Asheville police officer beating and choking a man in August 2017. That officer, who has since left the department, faces criminal charges. City Council has also been working on a number of personnel and policy changes.
Councilman Keith Young and Councilwoman Sheneika Smith both said they were interested in talking about cutting those Asheville Police Department funds.
“I would really be interested in how we’re spending our money there with all the dysfunction,” Smith said.
Councilman Vijay Kapoor said he would be “very hesitant” to roll back that funding increase, while Councilwoman Julie Mayfield and Mayor Esther Manheimer asked city staff for a review of the funding and its impact.
City Council is crafting its 2018-19 budget, and started with about a $3 million budget deficit. By law, it must pass a balanced budget at the end of June. City staffers made a number of proposals at the end of March that they said could whittle the budget deficit down to $1.7 million. Those proposals included everything from reducing a planned employee raise to increasing fees and parking rates.
Interim City Manager Cathy Ball said she’d get more information, but she said the cut would definitely result in layoffs. Those layoffs would affect officers that are in training right now, she said.