Northampton to establish new policing alternative without cuts to police budget

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Following the Northampton City Council passing Mayor David Narkewicz’s budget proposal, some are raising concerns it won’t be enough to establish the new policing alternative.

In the fiscal year 2022 budget, the Department of Community Care would get $423,955. City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra said that would be accompanied by a $150,000 earmark from the state. Meantime, the city will be looking for grants to support the new program while it sets up to be operational next year.

“That was a reasonable amount of money to get started and additionally,” said Sciarra. “For my part, I commit to providing what is needed to get the department up and serving Northampton.”

However, the budgeted amount is about half what the Northampton Policing Review Commission recommended. And the Former Co-Chair of the commission said relying on “grant cycles” could lead to instability.

“It’s temporary. It can easily disappear,” said Daniel Cannity. “[It’s] a real concern especially since we’re trying to set up an emergency response department. You can’t have that at risk of being lost.”

The Northampton Policing Review Commission also recommended cuts to the police department in its review put out in March. However, this budget includes a slight increase. Sciara said that was for additional hours for an animal control officer, saying there are only “contracted” increases.

“The City Council President’s response that those were required contract raises does not excuse her, and the City Council and the Mayor for not taking action and not figuring out ways to reduce the footprint of policing,” Yaping Douglass, a volunteer organizer for Northampton Abolition Now said.

22News requested an interview with the mayor but was told he was unavailable. The Northampton Police Department was also reached out to, they have not responded yet.

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