Defunding the police will "never" be on the table for TenHaken administration

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 8:51 PM CDT
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While other cities across the nation deal with their own set of issues, the city of Sioux Falls is brainstorming ideas to improve its police force as well. However, Mayor Paul TenHaken says that will not be done through defunding the police.

"In the city of Sioux Falls, under this administration, that is never going to be on the table," Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns says he has met with the mayor about this topic and appears to be on the same page on the issue.

"Frankly, if you're looking at the continued growth of the city, I don't know how you could consider (defunding the police department) as a serious notion and a way to promote change," Burns said.

In a tweet Tuesday, Mayor TenHaken addressed the topic publicly, saying, in part, "Our administration is working toward realistic solutions with lasting impact, not political puffery."

Just this past Sunday, nine Minneapolis city councilors said they're "committed" to dismantling policing in the city as it has been known.

"The concept of defunding the police, I think is a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction to this overall issue of social justice and equality," TenHaken said.

Vaney Hariri, Co-Founder of Think 3D Solutions, says it is up to each community to decide how to best move forward.

"There are certain police departments, in certain communities, I would never put in the same sentence as the SFPD," Hariri said. "That's not to say that we're perfect, that's not to say we don't have opportunities, but there are (police departments) that are not even trying."

Chief Burns says the SFPD is looking at many ways to improve, not only operations, but how the department can engage the community.

"We have several programs in place to do just that and if you were to defund (the police department), those programs would certainly be in peril," Burns said.

TenHaken says having a well-funded police department equals better training, better technology, improved school resources, and strong recruitment to the police force.

"We have to acknowledge that we're not Minneapolis, we're not Denver, and we are not New York City," TenHaken said. "We need to look at programs and initiatives that we can do in Sioux Falls that will allow our communities of color to feel like they are heard and have strong relationships with our police department."

TenHaken says the city has built a strong track record of doing the right things with law enforcement.

Wednesday afternoon, South Dakota Senator John Thune took to Twitter, agreeing with Mayor TenHaken, saying he "can't wrap his mind around this."

Thune added, less funding means lowering salaries for law enforcement, which could lead to a less-selective recruitment pool.