Minneapolis council members want significant cut in police budget

Minneapolis City Council members discuss defunding police department
Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender speaks to a crowd that gathered at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis to call for defunding the police department on June 7.
Liam James Doyle for MPR News file

Three members of the Minneapolis city council are proposing a budget shift of nearly $8 million from the police department to alternative public safety programs.

The $7.9 million budget amendment written by Council President Lisa Bender, and council members Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher, would redirect some non-emergency calls to other departments, fund a non-police 911 mental health crisis response program, and expand the existing Violence Prevention Program.

The proposal comes in the wake of widespread calls for police reform following the killing of George Floyd, and as the city also is seeing a significant spike in gun violence.

Fletcher called the proposal a balance between the need to invest in keeping the community safe now, while planning for future transformation of public safety.

The proposal is "to invest in alternative responses, to invest in violence prevention and to invest in additional accountability measures so that people can have better responses from the city around public safety calls and feel more trust that we're really sending the right resources to the right calls," he said.

The budget proposal would set the future Minneapolis police force at 750 officers in the future, well below the 888 officers proposed by Mayor Jacob Frey. Frey’s proposed 2021 budget sets police department funding at $179 million.

George Floyd-Minneapolis Police
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a news conference as Police Chief Medaria Arradondo listens on Aug. 26.
Jerry Holt | Star Tribune via AP file

“Mayor Frey has laid the groundwork in his budget proposal for new, alternative responses to low-level offenses like theft reports and parking problems," said a statement released by Frey's office. "The mayor would have significant concerns if his council colleagues attempted to make such large, permanent cuts to the number of officers in the department without sound data or community input to support such a decision."

The three council members’ budget amendment would also eliminate $5 million in police overtime funding from the mayor’s proposed budget to fund investments that reduce the need for overtime, by shifting up to 15 percent of public safety workload away from police officers.

"It's very important we take work off their plate," said Fletcher, who said he believes the mayor’s proposed budget did not do enough to reduce workload.

"I want officers investigating carjackings and solving some of the real problems in our community that are scaring people. I don't want officers taking reports for insurance," he said.

The three council members are also proposing to increase the ability of the city’s Civil Rights Department’s Office of Police Conduct Review to investigate complaints about police officer behavior.

“Our city cannot afford the status quo in public safety — not in the harm it causes to our community and not in the financial cost from police behavior. This proposal makes strategic investments to increase safety now and transform our public safety system to send the right response to community needs,” said Council President Lisa Bender.

The Minneapolis budget must be finalized by the end of December.

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