Dozens of people turned out for the Minneapolis City Council meeting Wednesday night to protest a last-minute budget proposal that would have allocated $605,000 to "improve the safety and accessibility" of the Fourth Police Precinct, which serves North Minneapolis and was the site of a two-week protest encampment.
The budget amendment was proposed by Council Member Blong Yang and supported by Mayor Betsy Hodges, and was made public just a few hours before the council's budget meeting began. The announcement didn't include any details explaining what would be upgraded or repaired at the building.
After a lengthy public comment period, during which most people spoke in opposition to the spending, the amendment was pulled from consideration.
Protesters demonstrated outside the Fourth Precinct for more than two weeks after the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man, by police officers in mid-November.
Many speakers at the council meeting believe the additional money was going to be used to "fortify" the precinct, the Star Tribune reports.
Since the protest encampment was cleared out several days ago, concrete barriers and chain link fences have been erected around the precinct.
The money would have come by shifting $95,000 from the street light LED conversion, $360,000 from automated pavement assessment, and $150,000 from the City’s IT budget, according to the mayor.
Money for police training
Another budget amendment, which did pass, calls for spending an additional $305,000 for training of Minneapolis police officers next year.
All officers on the force would go through a three-day training course in "procedural justice" – which means the way police and other legal authorities interact with the public.
In addition, all officers would go through crisis intervention training over the next two years, rather than three years.
The training is part of the city's involvement in a three-year pilot project called the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which has a goal of improving police-community relations and increasing trust between minority communities and the criminal justice system.
The initiative, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Justice, focuses on three areas:
- Implicit bias – the automatic assumptions people make about others based on common stereotypes. In policing, this has resulted in practices that focus undeserved suspicion on some groups of people and presume other groups are innocent.
- Procedural justice – is based on treating people with dignity and respect, giving citizens 'voice' during encounters, being neutral in decision making, and conveying trustworthy motives.
- Reconciliation – where police and the community come to see that they misunderstand each other in fundamental ways, and agree to work together to focus on common goals.
“Ensuring that police officers are fully trained to conduct themselves fairly, recognize and unlearn the biases that we all carry with us, and respond appropriately during crisis is a high priority for residents, businesses, officers, and the community,” said Hodges in an email news release.
Minneapolis was chosen earlier this year as one of six cities to participate in the initiative, according to MPR News, and is receiving $4.75 million from the Department of Justice to help pay for it.
Proposed budget shifts
The training will be paid for through some budget shifting – $200,000 in expected salary savings in the Police Department next year, and $105,000 cut from the street light LED conversion proposal.