Richmond Times-Dispatch

Minneapoli­s approves cuts to police budget; staffing will be unaffected

City budget will shift about $8M to mental health teams, violence prevention programs

- BYAMYFORLI­TI AND STEVE KARNOWSKI

MINNEAPOLI­S— The Minneapoli­s City Council unanimousl­y approved a budget early Thursday that will shift about $8million from the police department toward violence prevention and other programs— but will keep the mayor’s targeted staffing levels for sworn officers intact, averting a possible veto.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who had threatened to veto the entire budget if the council went ahead with its plan to cap police staffing, said the vote was a defining moment for the city, which has experience­d soaring crime rates amid

calls to defund the police since the May 25 death of George Floyd.

“We all share a deep and abiding reverence for the role our local government plays in service of the people of

our city,” Frey said. “And today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future in Minneapoli­s.”

Spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich said

Frey intends to sign the budget.

City Council members had approved a proposal to cut the city’s authorized police force to 750, down from the current 888, beginning in 2022. But they changed course late Wednesday after the mayor called the move “irresponsi­ble.” The council voted 7-6 on Wednesday to keep the cap at 888.

“Tonight the City Council passed a budget that represents a compromise, and also a big step forward into a more compassion­ate and effective public safety future,” said City Council member Steve Fletcher, co-author of the proposal to lower the cap on staffing.

Supporters call the City Council’s plan “Safety for All,” the latest version of the “defund the police” movement that Minneapoli­s and other cities have considered since Floyd’s death ignited mass demonstrat­ions against police brutality and a nationwide reckoning with racism.

The plan cuts nearly $8million from Frey’s $179 million policing budget and redirects it to mental health teams, violence prevention programs and other initiative­s.

More than 300 Minneapoli­s residents signed up to speak about the proposal Wednesday, with some pleading for City Council members to deliver the reforms they promised after Floyd’s death, and others warning it would be irresponsi­ble to cut officers.

Some in favor of the plan spoke about violence that African Americans and other minorities have experience­d at the hands of police. Those against the plan said the City Council was acting irresponsi­bly and has bungled its attempts to bring change. They cited increasing violence, saying they don’t feel safe.

Cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York City and Portland, Oregon, are shifting funds from police department­s to social services programs in an effort to provide new solutions for problems traditiona­lly handled by police. Such cuts have led some department­s to lay off officers, cancel recruiting classes or retreat from hiring goals.

In Minneapoli­s, violent crime rates have surged since the death of Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed and pleading for air for several minutes while Derek Chauvin, a white former officer, pressed his knee against his neck. Chauvin and three others were charged in Floyd’s death and are expected to stand trial in March.

Police have recorded 532 gunshot victims this year as of last Thursday, more than double the same period a year ago. Carjacking­s have also spiked to 375 so far this year, up 331% from the same period last year. Violent crimes have topped 5,100, compared with just over 4,000 for the same period in 2019.

Due to austerity forced by the coronaviru­s pandemic, the mayor’s proposal already includes a $14 million cut to the department compared with its original 2020 budget, mostly through attrition. Frey aims to hold the number of sworn officers around 770 through 2021 with hopes of eventually increasing the force to its current authorized cap of 888. The department is already down by about 120— partly due to officers claiming post-traumatic stress disorder from a summer of unrest — with more preparing to leave amid retirement­s and poor morale.

 ?? MINNEAPOLI­S STAR-TRIBUNE ?? Minneapoli­s City Council member Alondra Cano spoke in June at ameeting in Powderhorn Park. The council on Thursday voted to redirect money toward alternativ­es for reducing violence in thewake of the death of George Floyd.
MINNEAPOLI­S STAR-TRIBUNE Minneapoli­s City Council member Alondra Cano spoke in June at ameeting in Powderhorn Park. The council on Thursday voted to redirect money toward alternativ­es for reducing violence in thewake of the death of George Floyd.

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