Minneapolis budget committee approves cuts in police funding

A line of police officers on bicycles in riot gear
A line of police officers on bicycles in riot gear near the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct during a May 27 protest against the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd. A majority of people calling into a public hearing Wednesday urge the Minneapolis City Council to make much deeper cuts to the Police Department’s $193 million budget.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

Amid demands from residents to follow through on their pledge to dismantle the Police Department, members of the Minneapolis City Council Wednesday took steps towards shifting funds from the police and towards community-based violence prevention programs.

During a daylong budget markup, which included a public hearing, council members approved several amendments related to police funding and staffing. The committee approved an amendment to move $1.1 million from the Police Department to the Health Department in order to fund civilian violence interrupters who will mediate violent conflicts and help prevent further trouble.

Council member Phillipe Cunningham supports the “Cure Violence” model which includes the use of well-trained, unarmed community responders referred to as “interrupters.”

“We have lots and lots of models and examples from across the country that we are able to build this on,” said Cunningham, who has been a vocal supporter of treating violence as a public health problem and focusing resources at non-law-enforcement-based methods of addressing it.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo did not voice support or opposition to the proposal. Instead he said he’d like to hear more about the “Cure Violence” model.

The committee also approved a measure that would eliminate the Police Department's public information officer. Before voting to approve the amendment, council member Jeremy Schroeder criticized the Police Department’s initial characterization of George Floyd’s death as the result of a “medical condition” instead of dying at the hands of officers.

“As we’re trying to rebuild public trust with the Police Department and with the city in general, I just want to point out that, best case scenario, there were severe things that went wrong for that to be the news release,” said Schroeder.

The council's budget committee met to discuss changes to Mayor Jacob Frey's proposed amended 2020 budget. The city is facing a nearly $98 million budget shortfall due to the pandemic and the unrest which followed the police killing of George Floyd.

A few dozen people called in during a public hearing to urge council members to follow through on the pledge made by a majority of the council to defund and/or dismantle the police. Many of them also urged the council to take a much bigger bite out of the Police Department’s $193 million budget this year.

“I urge you to divest from the Minneapolis Police Department on the meaningful scale of $45 million,” said Ruby Erickson, a resident of Ward 3. “And redirecting those funds to community-led violence prevention in Minneapolis and continuing on into further divestment in the future,” 

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