Mpls. businesses raise $5 million for public safety initiatives

A crowd stands in a circle.
People break out into groups June 14 to discuss where they would like funds to go if money is divested from police budgets and reinvesting it into communities.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News File

Minneapolis businesses jumped into the fray of the debate over the city's police budget Thursday. They say they've raised $5 million to pay for innovation in community safety. The amount equals what three Minneapolis council members propose to cut from police overtime for next year.

The businesses say the funds would go to support health and social service innovations.

"We know that Minneapolis must be a safe place for residents, workers and visitors. At the same time, we recognize the policing in our city should be more just, equitable and effective,” said Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. “The conversation around public safety should not be one that is either — or."

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the fund can help the city to begin innovations without making cuts.

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"We can do both, we can still maintain public safety, and still deal with the effects of what transformational change looks like. And holding folks accountable that do not live up to that. But we can't sacrifice the lives of our residents by listening to one core constituency," the chief said.

The proposal comes as the city council mulls cutting the police force budget by close to $8 million and using that money to fund other programs. The council also is considering whether to reduce the allowed future force to 750 officers, rather than the 888 recommended by Mayor Jacob Frey in his 2021 budget proposal, which sets $179 million for police.

Minneapolis Council President Lisa Bender, council members Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher, who authored the proposal, characterized it as a meaningful and incremental way to start transforming the city's public safety system. For the most part council members agreed at a Thursday afternoon budget committee discussion that some functions currently performed by police officers and the money to fund those functions can be transferred to other departments.

However, some council members wanted to discuss separately and eventually vote on sections of the 11-part amendment.

Council members will meet again Friday to continue its budget discussions and may need until later Monday to finish. After the council amends the 2021 budget they'll vote on it next Wednesday.