Minneapolis City Council votes to move millions out of police department

The council kept the mayor’s target of 888 officers for 2022 , avoiding a potential face-off with Frey.

Background: Minneapolis Police Department. Left: MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo from MPD website. Right: Mayor Jacob Frey from Minneapolis Mayor's website.

The Minneapolis City Council voted to move an additional $7.7 million out of the Minneapolis Police Department early Thursday morning, but backed down from a plan to reduce the number of officers.

The changes to Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed budget were voted on for final approval Wednesday night and into Thursday after a public hearing of more than five hours regarding the 2021 city budget.

The council voted to fund the “Safety for All” budget plan, moving $7.7 million out of MPD to other city services. The MPD budget had already been reduced from 2020 by about $14 million in Mayor Frey’s proposal.

The money for the “Safety for All” plan is said to be coming primarily out of the allocated funds for MPD overtime.

Narrowly passed in a 7-6 vote, however, the council kept the mayor’s target of 888 officers for 2022, avoiding a potential face-off with Frey.

“Our city’s workforce has adapted to an incredible challenge this year of working remotely and completely shifting the way we’re working as a community, while facing a pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, the destruction of the Third Precinct, and so much of our community’s commercial corridors,” Council President Lisa Bender said at the meeting.

Bender tweeted early Thursday morning, “All the Safety for All Budget proposals passed for 2021. Mental health, violence prevention, oversight and more. The budget makes important investments in affordable housing, health and economic recovery.”

“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.”

Veto threat

At a Monday night meeting, a council committee voted 7-6 to advance a proposal that would reduce the number of MPD officers to 750, instead of Frey’s proposed 888, starting in 2022.

Frey threatened to veto the budget in response, calling the proposal “irresponsible.”

“We continue to stand ready to collaborate and support the safety beyond policing initiatives, but I am actively considering a veto due to the massive, permanent cut to officer capacity,” he said.

Council President Bender said a veto would be “so destructive to the City and our residents that it is difficult to take the threat seriously.”

“Mayor Frey’s insistence that we should plan for 888 police officers in 2022 is completely unrealistic. The realistic budget the City Council has drafted is based on the actual current staffing of MPD after years of attrition and an exodus of officers since the killing of George Floyd and the burning of the Third Precinct,” she said in a statement.

“If the mayor vetoes it, he will trigger a $20 million budget cut that will affect every City department next year while we are still responding to a pandemic, rebuilding public safety and facing multi-million dollar lawsuits related to police violence,” she added.

But the full council reversed course on that proposal Wednesday night, avoiding a mayoral veto.

More than 100 officers have left the department in 2020, according to Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, which is more than double the typical rate of attrition.

The debate surrounding the MPD budget comes amid historic levels of violent crime in Minneapolis. The city has experienced nearly 80 homicides this year, more than 500 shootings, and a 500% increase in carjackings.