Amid rising crime, the Minneapolis City Council on Thursday cut $8 million from the police department while holding off on a dramatic cut in the future size of the department.
The council first sought to “defund” the police in the aftermath of the riots that followed the May death of George Floyd while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, according to the Star-Tribune.
To advance that plan, a budget proposal had called for a reduction in the maximum size of the police force from 888 to 750 as of 2022. That reduction, which had drawn a veto threat from Mayor Jacob Frey, was removed from the plan.
The 2021 fiscal reduction to the police budget comes amid rising crime.
Ever since riots convulsed the city in waves of arson and looting in late May, homicides in Minneapolis are up 50 percent over last year, with almost 75 people shot to death, while over 500 have been shot, twice the number racked up in 2019 and the highest in over a decade. The city hit a five-year high in violent crimes with more than 4,600 incidents, according to The Washington Post.
Prior to the council’s action, Frey’s 2021 budget proposal included a $14 million cut to the police department, according to the Star-Tribune. Overall, the department will face a roughly $22 million cut from its $193 million budget to shift money to mental health crisis teams, train dispatchers to assess mental health calls and have other city workers handle theft and property damage reports.
Frey’s cut also came amid a round of cuts to address fiscal issues related to the coronavirus.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo pushed back against the cut to his overtime budget because his force is currently understaffed due to resignations and officers on medical leave. The staffing levels are so low that Minneapolis has agreed to pay neighboring police to help out the city.
“It is a natural necessity to have overtime,” Arradondo told the Star-Tribune. “If our officers are out at a call, be it an accident or an assault or a robbery, they will not just stop their duties when their 10-hour shift is up. They will stay there to complete the task.”
City Council President Lisa Bender, who had pushed for the staffing cut as part of what was called a “Safety for All” budget, said the transition away from having a police department will continue in spite of the fact that the staffing cut proposal was rescinded.
“Despite having no realistic plan to hire 140 new officers in 2022, the Mayor threatened to veto a budget that invests in community safety, health, eviction prevention, affordable housing, economic recovery and other investments that are needed now more than ever,” she said, according to KMSP-TV.
“The amendment to forecast funding for vacant positions in the police department in future years was the only change made to our Safety for All Budget plan tonight, and all Council Members who spoke expressed their continued commitment to transforming our system of public safety.”
“The City Council has stepped up to lead, working together to respond to complex demands from a community reeling from police violence, community violence and the social unrest that followed George Floyd’s death,” she said.
Some pushed back against the budget cut.
.@GovTimWalz Do you support the decision by the Minneapolis City Council to start defunding and already understaffed police dept? If you do you need to resign immediately because you are willing to do harm to your constituents in order to support an agenda. @MinnesotaMiners
— Patricia Hammes (@PatriciaHammes2) December 9, 2020
➡️Minneapolis shootings, homicides are up 64%.
➡️Carjackings are up 537%.
➡️Officers are racing to leave the department.
What’s the city council doing about it? Pushing for another nearly $6 million in budget cuts for the police department.https://t.co/5hQACk4ggh
— LawEnforcementToday (@LawEnforceToday) December 8, 2020
Many residents who participated in the virtual hearing vented their anger at the police as they supported the cuts.
“The actions of the MPD after George Floyd just showed to me how the MPD is irredeemable,” a South Minneapolis resident told the council, according to The Washington Post. “They don’t care about us. They all live in the suburbs, and they don’t prevent any crime. All they do is escalate the situation.”
“There is no saving or reforming a system that functions this way,” said Brian Fanelli, according to KMSP.
“We wall want MPLS to be a safe city, but police did not make George Floyd safer. They murdered and because police exist to prioritize white comfort over Black and Brown lives, they will continue murdering and terrorizing people of color in our city, until we take away their ability to do so.”
Although a proposal to put a referendum before voters on defunding the police is currently stalled, City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said the long-term effort to rid the city of its police department is not dead, according to Fox News.
“This is NOT the last chance we will have to dramatically rethink public safety in our city,” he said. “We will quickly be in 2021 budget discussions, we will continue to ramp up community engagement on the future of public safety, and we will revisit the charter change for the 2021 ballot.”
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