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Minneapolis City Council committee passes 2021 budget, Frey threatens veto

The budget includes the "Safety for All" amendment, which would cut nearly $8 million from the city's police budget to fund alternative safety programs.

A Minneapolis City Council committee approved an amendment cutting nearly $8 million from the city’s police department in its 2021 budget, a move which could result in a veto from the mayor.

The city's budget committee approved the Safety for All budget Monday, shifting $7.77 million from the Minneapolis Police Department to other public safety programs. The move was spearheaded by Council Members Philippe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher along with Council President Lisa Bender.

“It is our duty to protect the people of Minneapolis, and our current public safety system fails to do so. The Safety for All Budget Plan will keep the residents of our city safer by meeting the urgent safety needs in our city now while also laying a path towards much needed transformation in our public safety system,” Cunningham said in a statement.

In Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed $1.5 billion budget, the Minneapolis Police Department would receive $179 million, including three new officer recruitment classes. Frey has stated these new officers are necessary to compensate for attrition following the police-involved death of George Floyd and subsequent unrest. 

The Safety for All amendment would fund alternative safety programs by dipping into proposed overtime pay allotments and transferring between 10% and 15% of officer workload to other city staff.

Alternative public safety initiatives in the Safety for All proposal include around $2.4 million for mental health response teams, nearly $2 million for an expanded violence prevention program and around $1.8 million for neighborhood safety organizing.

The amendment would preserve Frey’s proposed recruitment classes, but it would set the city’s target officer staffing at 750 in future years, compared to the current 888.

“This Council is united on the goals of providing a better response to mental health crises and investing in violence prevention,” Fletcher said in a statement.

“We worked through some healthy disagreement about how to fund it, and how to create accountability for our Police Department. The outcome of that conversation was that the Council approved the Safety for All proposal in its entirety, setting us on a great course for a safer and more equitable future.”

Frey has been critical of the Safety for All amendment since it was introduced last month, calling it “irresponsible” and “untenable.”

In a statement Monday, Frey said the amendment’s cut to officer staffing means he would consider vetoing the council’s 2021 budget.

“Preemptively reducing the sworn capacity by 138 officers prior to having alternative responses in place or completing the mutually-agreed upon staffing study is irresponsible,” Frey said. “We’ve given the Council every opportunity to join us in a both-and approach that gives [MPD] Chief [Medaria] Arradondo the flexibility he needs to move forward and ability to scale up new safety solutions."

Frey pointed to a $5 million alternative proposal he introduced last week, which would fund public initiatives favored by the council through private donations managed by the Minneapolis Foundation.

But some activist groups have said the Safety for All amendment does not go far enough. Earlier this month, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective introduced a proposal called the “People’s Budget.” The People’s Budget calls for $53 million in cuts to MPD to programs ranging from mental health responses to housing and childcare. 

Following a hearing on Wednesday, the council will debate and vote on a final budget. 

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