In marathon public hearing, hundreds weigh in on proposed cuts to Minneapolis police

Demonstrators carry signs and march.
Demonstrators march against racism and police brutality and to defund the Minneapolis Police Department in June in Minneapolis.
Kerem Yucel | AFP via Getty Images file

Once again, public safety and the Minneapolis Police Department’s budget dominated a public hearing on the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget. 

The Wednesday evening hearing — which lasted more than seven hours — was the second of three opportunities for the public to weigh in and this time more than 400 people signed up to speak.

Last week, three council members introduced a proposal to move $7.9 million from the police budget to fund a nonpolice 911 mental health crisis response function and expand the city’s Violence Prevention Program and neighborhood safety organizing programs.

Mayor Jacob Frey and police Chief Medaria Arradondo have said they oppose the proposal, with Frey calling it “irresponsible.”

Callers like Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg said they agree with part of the proposal, but added it doesn’t go far enough to move resources to city functions that keep people safe.  

“Police come after harm has happened,” said Rosenberg. “And do nothing to change the conditions which lead to harm and violence." 

Rosenberg said she supported a People’s Budget, a proposal promoted by groups including Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block. The plan proposes cutting more than $53 million from the department and putting that money toward health, housing and community-based violence prevention programs. 

But there were dozens of callers who said that while they support making reforms to the Police Department, now is not the time to cut resources. There were callers who said crime has gotten so bad that they travel miles away to shop in the suburbs. Or, they don't feel safe walking their dogs in their neighborhoods.  One woman identified herself as the victim of a carjacking and she urged the council to adopt the mayor's budget without the additional cuts. 

Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton led the city in the mid-1990s when a peak in homicides earned the city the nickname “Murderapolis.”  She told council members to work with the mayor.  

"The problems that we face require cooperation, coordination and the input of all the stakeholders,” she said. “Flashy quick fixes are not backed by data, analysis or review will not build the public's trust. It will, on the contrary, further undermine it and put the citizens of the city of Minneapolis at great and further risk."

The council’s budget committee will discuss and vote on the Police Department budget cut proposal later Thursday. Next week, the council will hold another public hearing before taking the final vote on the 2021 budget.

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