The police chief in the small Texas town of Blue Mound abruptly resigned during a city council meeting on Thursday. The council was meeting to finalize a vote to slash the police department’s budget by nearly 20%, reported KTVT-TV.
In the days leading up to the meeting, the Blue Mound Police Department shared a video on Facebook of Texas Governor Greg Abbott discussing the destruction caused by the “defund the police” movement.
On the day of the city council meeting, the police department posted on Facebook again, asking the public to attend and speak up in support of the department.
“In the past year and a half Mayor Copeland has defunded the Blue Mound Police Department by over $200,000 leaving us without even so much as a cost of living raise available for PD employees since 2019. Mayor Copeland has now proposed a plan to the city council to defund our police department an additional $200,000 by outsourcing our dispatch services to Sansom Park PD to save money on the budget,” the post read.
The police department expressed concern that outsourcing dispatch to another city could cause officer safety concerns. They argued that Sansom Park’s first priority would be its own officers during intense and dangerous situations.
The Facebook post stated that if the mayor’s budget cuts were approved, four Blue Mound Police Department employees would be out of work. It said that two of the dispatchers who would lose their positions have worked for the city considerably longer than “anyone involved in making these decisions.”
Several citizens attended the Thursday city council meeting to voice their concerns about the budget cuts. Residents praised the police department and Steele for cracking down on drug houses in the area. They also expressed concern that outsourcing dispatch could lead to longer wait times.
In addition to eliminating the city’s dispatch team, Mayor Copeland’s proposed budget cuts would prevent the department from providing employees with raises for the second consecutive year.
“There is no money to give raises and no money to sustain them. You cannot pay out more with the same amount coming in,” Copeland stated.
The mayor argued that neither she nor anyone else on the city council was attempting to defund the police.
“There has been no discussion whatsoever about defunding the police department,” Copeland said. “Not one single word.”
Police Chief Dusty Steele spoke during the public hearing and surprised the city with his resignation. He concluded his speech by saying, “I think it’s time I move on.” Steele then took off his badge and placed it in front of Mayor Copeland.
Residents reacted with gasps and pointed blame at the mayor. Some Blue Mound residents were even in tears over Steele’s resignation, including Linda Phillips, a city council member.
“I knew that they were going to try to get rid of him,” Phillips told KTVT-TV. “I have fought tooth and nail for this police department.”
After the public hearing, Steele confirmed that he had announced his resignation because he did not feel supported by the city. He said, “We have very limited budget for equipment and necessary things that we need.”
The police chief stated that he wanted to provide his employees with pay raises to incentivize officers to stay. He expressed concern that Blue Mound PD could not compete with other city departments offering signing bonuses and higher salaries.
While a final decision regarding the budget cuts was supposed to be made on Thursday, the decision was postponed because of Steel’s unexpected resignation. Another meeting is scheduled for next week to vote on the proposal.
KTVT-TV reported that both Copeland and Steele left the door open for the possibility of a reconciliation.