Politics and Government

New Minneapolis police chief concerned after city cuts 0.5 percent of police budget

A person looks on
Brian O’Hara reacts as the Minneapolis City Council delivers remarks before his confirmation vote to be the next chief of police on Nov. 3.
Ben Hovland

Members of the Minneapolis City Council voted on Thursday to shift around $1 million from the mayor’s proposed 2023 police department budget in order to fund other functions.

The reductions in the MPD’s 2023 budget are a small portion of the $195 million proposed by mayor Jacob Frey. The proposed 2023 budget is still larger than the $187 million allocated to the department in 2022.

Council Member Andrew Johnson sponsored an amendment that moved three full-time employees positions from the Minneapolis Police Department to the Performance Management and Innovation Department, a $353,000 move. It was approved 7-6.

Johnson said the office’s work on public safety has already saved the police department resources by identifying areas where money can be saved.

“As we look at this department, we know we’re short staffed, having them focused and continuing to accelerate the work on public safety in order to find these efficiency savings within the departments is going to pay dividends,” Johnson said.

Chief Brian O’Hara told the council he was concerned the shifts would hurt the department’s preparation for upcoming consent decree processes with the federal and state governments.

“Having been through a consent decree process and having collaborated with other people trying to figure this out in other cities across the country, I know what this looks like in terms of being able to have the capacity to deal with that,” O’Hara said. “That will require us to have additional people to deal with that.”

O’Hara, who helped Newark, N.J., navigate a consent decree before he was appointed to lead the MPD, said the consent decree process may require more flexibility on both officer and civilian positions within the department.

“In addition to just having the capacity within the police department to move quickly … I need civilian people who can work here, and work at my pace, so we’re not wasting time in terms of making change real and coming into compliance, because every day that goes by, we’re just costing the city more money,” O’Hara said.

Frey's budgets include increased spending for public safety and affordable housing. They also include funding for the additional law enforcement officers required by the city charter.

The council considered a total of 30 amendments to Frey’s proposed budget of $1.6 billion next year and $1.7 billion for 2024. Among the changes that were approved was $1.2 million to install sprinklers at Minneapolis public housing buildings, $300,000 for street lighting in north Minneapolis and $150,000 for opioid treatment. The council added funding for some neighborhood organizations and landscaping on city roundabouts and streets. 

The council is expected to formally adopt the proposed spending plans next week.

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