Mpls. council pushes forward with police budget cuts; Frey considers veto

A man speaks behind a podium.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a news conference as Police Chief Medaria Arradondo listens Aug. 26. Frey and Arradondo oppose cuts supported by the Minneapolis City Council.
Jerry Holt | Star Tribune via AP file

The Minneapolis City Council Monday approved a series of cuts to the Police Department budget that Mayor Jacob Frey says he may veto if it moves forward.

The cuts are part of a proposal introduced late last month by members of the council, which takes $7.7 million from the Police Department’s budget to fund other public safety programs and initiatives.

The money will pay for the expansion of the Office of Violence Prevention within the city’s Health Department. And the plan moves more than a dozen civilian crime prevention specialist positions out of the Police Department and into another city agency.

The council also approved reducing the authorized size of the force from 888 to 750.

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In a statement, Frey said the council was sidestepping a “mutually-agreed upon staffing study” on police staffing as well as a business and community initiative that promised $5 million for mental health services to work with emergency response.

“We continue to stand ready to collaborate and support the safety beyond policing initiatives, but I am actively considering a veto due to the massive, permanent cut to officer capacity,” the mayor said. The mayor would have to veto the entire budget, not just individual provisions.

Council members also approved the creation of a staffing fund for the Police Department which allows for the hiring of new recruits, but would require the chief to get authorization from the council first.

Those in favor said that's better than giving the chief a blank check to pay for overtime, but Council member Lisa Goodman disagreed.

"We don't want them to just say, ‘yeah you are at the end of your shift, please come back.’ We allow them to finish up on the work they are doing for better or for worse. And we end up having to pay for that. Having less officers clearly means more overtime," Goodman said.

The council-supported plan would create a 911 response for mental health calls that does not involve police, according to a statement from the three council members who authored the plan, City Council President Lisa Bender, and Council members Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher.

Fletcher said the council “had a challenging, thoughtful conversation about policing, about alternative responses, and about what we want for the future of public safety. This Council is united on the goals of providing a better response to mental health crises and investing in violence prevention.”

A group that pushed for changes, especially after the police killing of George Floyd, Reclaim the Block, said though “meaningful,” the reductions in the police budget do not go far enough. In a statement released Monday evening, Sheila Nezhad said, “We got here because thousands of community members demanded it, in the streets and in the budget hearings. Our city is overdue to change how we respond to mental health crises and prevent violence, and it’s time to get started.”

Council members can still offer amendments to the budget before voting on the final plan Wednesday.

Reporter Brandt Williams contributed to this story.