NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After weeks of the Nashville People's Budget Coalition and other activist organizations calling on Metro Council to "defund the police," the vote early Wednesday morning went in the opposite direction.
Not only will Metro Police be fully funded this year, but they also received additional money to help them recruit new officers.
Jamel Campbell-Gooch, an organizer with the Nashville People's Budget Coalition, says the vote didn't go the way they wanted but calls this an important first step.
"That is a win, right? We have entered into the regular conversation," said Campbell-Gooch."We also still have a lot of work to do against anti-blackness and anti-working class."
They've been calling for money to be taken from the Metro Nashvlle Police Department's budget to fund violence mediation, education and community outreach programs.
"Let’s invest in our people. Let’s invest in our communities. Let’s not keep investing in throwing them away," said Campbell-Gooch.
Instead, Metro Council voted to give MNPD all of the money they requested, including funds to equip all officers with body cameras and to buy two new police helicopters. Council also approved an additional $2.6 million to recruit and hire new officers.
Metro Police spokesperson Don Aaron tells NewsChannel 5, the department has been understaffed for years and the $2.6 million from Metro Council is fulfilling a vote they took several years ago to get staffing levels back up.
While that wasn't the outcome Jamel wanted, he says he's proud of what they accomplished. "We organized in a few short days. We got 5,000+ people to weigh in on what numbers they would want to divest away from police and invest into our communities," said Campbell-Gooch.
He's already thinking of the next steps, like determining just how much money they mean when they say "defund the police."
"So what is that number? I have no clue. But I know right now our number is zero. Therefore our city is not investing in actual mediation programs that work," he said.
We also reached out to Councilwoman Kyonzte Toombs, who was pleased overall with the budget but was against Metro Police getting additional funding. She sent this statement to our newsroom:
"My preference was to maintain the Metro step increases and reduce MNPD's budget as originally proposed in Councilman Mendes' substitute, which I co-sponsored. I understand the concern about the 48 new recruits. However, we need to rethink how we do policing in our city. That includes looking at current police duties and financial resources determining what can be reallocated to more community-based organizations and departments that have more of a direct positive impact on the community."