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Minneapolis City Council Cuts $8 Million from Police Budget as Violent Crime Surges

A police officer stands guard as officers face protesters after the death of George Floyd, in St. Paul, Minn., May 28, 2020. (Adam Bettcher/Reuters)

The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday passed a budget that shifts roughly $8 million from the Police Department to other services, though it maintains plans to hire more officers in future years.

The council’s “Safety for All” plan to move a fraction of the department’s $179 million in funding to mental health and violence prevention programs comes after its stalled attempt earlier this year to dismantle the Police Department and replace it with unarmed professionals that would instead respond to mental health calls, domestic disputes and other situations that normally involve police.

“The City Council adopted a 2021 budget!!” Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender tweeted on Thursday. “All the #SafetyForAllBudget proposals passed for 2021. Mental health, violence prevention, oversight and more.”

The budget cuts follow a summer of surging crime and widespread rioting over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May. More than 500 people have been shot in the city this year, according to police data, twice as many as 2019. Murders have spiked more than 50 percent, while the city has seen nearly 5,000 violent crimes, the highest level in five years.

The council changed its position on police staffing late Wednesday after Mayor Jacob Frey, who had hoped to keep the current target level of 888 officers, said he was considering vetoing the budget over concern about “the massive permanent cut to officer capacity in future years.”

The increased staffing measure, which was passed in a 7-6 vote, was an about-face from the council’s initial plan to drop the force’s authorized size to 750 officers beginning in 2022, according to the Star Tribune. 

The plan to hire additional staff will not change the number of officers who will work in 2021, the Star Tribune reported. The city anticipates a monthly average of 770 police officers will work in 2021, as long as the council agrees to release funding for some recruit classes. 

In a statement early Thursday, Frey lauded the council’s vote on the budget.

“My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities,” Frey said. “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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