(The Center Square) – The Minneapolis City Council voted to cut $8 million from the Police Department (MPD) in their 2021 budget. However, the Council also also added a caveat to allow for additional future police recruitment, likely dodging a veto from Mayor Jacob Frey.
In a 7-6 vote Wednesday night, the council's decision doesn’t change the number of officers in 2021, but sets a higher target number for replacing officers who are currently out on leave for post-traumatic stress disorders or other reasons with the council’s authorization.
Voting to set the possible police number at 888 were: Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Lisa Goodman, Andrew Johnson, Linea Palmisano, Alondra Cano, Kevin Reich, and Jamal Osman.
Voting “no” were Council President Lisa Bender and Council members Fletcher, Cam Gordon, Jeremy Schroeder, Phillipe Cunningham, and Jeremiah Ellison.
The council originally planned to cut the force to 750 officers but changed course after Frey's threatened veto.
Cunningham opposed the higher target.
“The mayor’s budget would needlessly waste a pot of money that we could put towards good use elsewhere,” Cunningham said. “It doesn’t make sense to keep that additional money in for MPD when we won’t actually have the officers to achieve that number of 888.”
“We must try all the options to restore the sense of safety in our communities,” he said.
"The reality right now is that Chief [Medaria] Arradondo is woefully understaffed for a variety of reasons," Jenkins said. "Do I believe that this effort will resolve all of our problems, all of our crime issues overnight? Absolutely not. Neither will all of the social service programs and initiatives. It's going to take all of these things together to lower the crime rate in our communities."
Frey celebrated the vote.
"My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities," he 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."
The city is still reeling from the May death of George Floyd while in police custody.
The City Council has been divided over whether to fulfill a June promise to dismantle their police or to augment it in reaction to a 15-year high in violent crime, with carjackings up 537% year-to-date, over 500 people shot, and nearly 80 homicides – compared to last year's 48 homicides.
Frey’s $1.5 billion plan aims to dedicate $400,000 to the Minneapolis Forward Community Now Coalition and $5 million in one-time tax incremental financing funding for the Commercial Property Development Fund to help businesses hurt by COVID-19 and May riots.
The $7.7 million cut from the police department will instead fund mental health crisis teams and other violence prevention programs.
The higher police staffing target aims to reduce a spike in police overtime.
Arradondo said overtime costs in October were nearly $1 million – $650,000 more than the monthly average for the first five months of 2020.
Arradondo added that his force has 166 fewer officers than the amount it started with in 2020, roughly 874.
Members also voted 12-1 to approve a 5.75% property tax levy increase.