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Minneapolis City Council passes cuts to police budget, maintains officer staffing levels

The City Council voted to keep target staffing levels at 888 after Mayor Jacob Frey threatened to veto the budget.

The Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed its 2021 budget early Thursday morning, which included nearly $8 million in cuts to the city’s police department in favor of other public safety measures.

The budget included the Safety for All amendment, which takes $7.77 million from the Minneapolis Police Department’s $179 million budget to fund mental health crisis teams, violence prevention programs and neighborhood safety initiatives.

The amendment, authored by Council Members Philippe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Lisa Bender, initially cut target officer staffing numbers in coming years from 888 to 750 to reflect recent officer attrition. Mayor Jacob Frey was critical of the provision, calling it “irresponsible” and threatening to veto the entire budget in response.

An amendment introduced at the meeting Wednesday night would forecast funding in the 2022 budget year to keep around 140 positions and maintain staffing levels supported by Frey and MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo. That amendment, which narrowly passed 7-6, does not impact the 2021 budget, but allows the council to fund the positions in the next budget process.

“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,” said Council President Bender in a statement.

“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.”

Public Safety programs in the Safety for All amendment will be funded by redirecting some MPD funding to other city departments and allowing the Civil Rights Department to investigate complaints of officer behavior.

The budget also reduces MPD’s overtime budget and transfers around 10 to 15% of the department’s workload to other city staff.

In a statement Thursday, Frey voiced support for the council’s budget and amendment to keep target staffing levels at 888 officers.

“Today’s vote reflects our commitment to a both-and approach to public safety in this defining moment for our city. My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities,” Frey said in a statement.

“The additional funding for new public safety solutions will also allow the City to continue upscaling important mental health, non-police response, and social service components in our emergency response system.”

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Public testimony on the city’s budget lasted for multiple hours Wednesday night, largely on the public safety aspects of the proposal. Testifiers spoke against and in favor of the Safety for All amendment, and some testifiers also voiced support for the “People’s Budget.”

The People’s Budget, spearheaded by activist groups Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, would cut $53 million from MPD’s budget to fund programs including mental health care, housing and childcare.

The council’s 2021 budget also includes $5 million in one-time funding for recovery for businesses affected by the pandemic and social unrest over the summer and $7.2 million in increased funding for affordable housing.

Under the budget’s 5.75% maximum property tax levy, the city’s median-valued house will see a $59 year decrease in property tax. 

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