Minneapolis City Council votes to remove $8 million from police budget

By Jenny Gross

The Minneapolis City Council voted early Thursday to move nearly $8 million from the Police Department’s proposed budget of $179 million to other city services but to keep staffing levels for officers the same, the latest step taken by the city to restructure the department after the killing of George Floyd in May.

The council had originally planned to reduce the number of officers to 750, from 888, starting in 2022, even as gun violence in Minneapolis has surged this year. The city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, had threatened to veto the budget if the council approved such a measure.

“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 early Thursday.

“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.”

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground under the knee of a white police officer. The encounter, captured on video, led to widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism in Minneapolis and cities around the United States.

Less than two weeks after Floyd’s death, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to dismantle the city’s Police Department and to create a new system of public safety.

But pledges to cut police budgets have raised questions about what such a change would really mean and how cities would contend with crime. The city logged 5,164 violent crimes so far this year, up 25.7% from 4,107 last year, according to data from the Minneapolis Police Department.

Council members later backtracked, and the most far-reaching policy reforms in Minneapolis did not move forward.

“I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said in September when asked if the council’s statement had led to uncertainty at a pivotal moment.

Instead of larger policing changes, Minneapolis agreed to ban chokeholds and passed several reforms, including a revamped use-of-force policy.

Residents in Minneapolis have mixed opinions on the council’s efforts to change how the police force runs. In the city’s North Side, which has a majority Black population, residents have complained about mistreatment but also about rampant crime. The Police Department’s 4th Precinct, which covers North Minneapolis, has seen more murders and violent crimes this year than any other precinct in the city.

“Our communities are in so much trauma now,” Andrea Jenkins, the council vice president, said at the meeting. “We must try all the options to restore a sense of safety, of real safety in our communities.”

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