Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves the city of Minneapolis and a police budget.
The Minneapolis City Council, voted early Thursday to shift nearly $8 million from next year’s police budget to other city services as part of an effort to “transform” public safety in the city. The controversial plan was approved unanimously as part of the city’s 2021 budget.
The controversial plan was approved unanimously as part of the city’s 2021 budget. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had earlier threatened a veto to the budget, calling the police cuts “irresponsible” as the city confronts an unprecedented wave of violence and scores of police officer departures since George Floyd’s death that have left the department struggling to respond to emergencies.
But then in a statement, Frey praised the council for removing language that would have permanently shrunk the size of the force by about 130 officers in what he described as a “defining moment for our city.”
Council members who supported the “Safety for All” plan argued the city could no longer tolerate what they described as a broken system of policing and a department that has been resistant to reform. The vote came after contentious public hearings and deeply emotional debate among council members, who have openly struggled to balance concern about historically high crime across Minneapolis against public calls to reform a police department that has long been accused of racism and excessive force, especially against residents who are Black.
The budget fight unfolded six months after Floyd’s death,The 46 year old Black man died after being handcuffed and restrained face down on a South Minneapolis street by police who responded to a 911 call about a counterfeit $20 bill that had been passed at a local convenience store. Following a struggle, then Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man repeatedly complained of struggling to breathe. which sparked worldwide protests and a national reckoning on issues of race, social justice and policing.
Frey had once proposed a $179 million police budget for 2021, a cut of approximately $14 million from the approved 2020 budget because of declining city revenue related to the coronavirus pandemic. But under the budget approved Thursday, the council would divert $7.7 million from law enforcement to fund alternatives to policing, including mental health crisis teams and additional staffers in the city’s office of violence prevention.
$5 million of that money came from cuts to a budget for police overtime a move that Police Chief Medaria Arradondo had strongly discouraged, calling overtime a “necessity” for the department as it copes with staffing shortages and prepares for the trial of the four former police officers charged in Floyd’s death.
Under the budget plan, the council set up an $11.4 million reserve fund that would include about $6 million Frey had budgeted for two future recruiting classes, as well as an additional $5 million for police overtime. The police department would have to get city council approval to access the funds an effort to increase accountability for the department, council members said.
Many invoked Floyd’s police custody death to argue for reduced funding for an agency they said cannot be reformed. Many callers who identified themselves as residents of the South Minneapolis neighborhoods that were burned and destroyed during the civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing blamed police for inflaming the protests and doing little to stop the looting and burning of businesses.
Others accused the council of acting rashly by reducing funding for the department at a crucial moment in the city and without proof that the alternative policing methods it is embracing will work quickly enough to contain the surging crime and violence.