(The Center Square) – The Minneapolis City Council has voted to divert millions of dollars from the 2021 police budget.
The vote was taken as carjackings are up 537% year-to-date, according to the Star Tribune.
The council approved reducing the force’s authorized size from 888 to 750 – a 15.5% reduction.
Minneapolis is still reeling from the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in police custody. City council members are torn between fulfilling a June promise to dismantle the police department and replace it with another form of public safety, or ensuring a strong police presence to minimize the already more than 500 people shot this year in the city – a 15-year high.
In an 11-2 vote, the council decided to cut the police department by $5.7 million, mostly by diverting $5 million in overtime to pay for mental health crisis teams and violence prevention programs.
Members also approved a police staffing fund that can hire recruits with the council’s authorization.
Councilmember Lisa Goodman argued that fewer officers would result in spending more on overtime.
“We don’t want them to just say, ‘yeah you are at the end of your shift, please come back.’ We allow them to finish up on the work they are doing for better or for worse. And we end up having to pay for that. Having less officers clearly means more overtime,” Goodman said.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said police overtime in October was 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.
Council Members Steve Fletcher and Phillipe Cunningham have previously argued that additional police spending won’t stop violent crime and that they aren’t opposed to the police, but want to instead hold them accountable by not handing the police department a “blank check.”
“I am very frustrated and tired of the narrative that if we try to hold this Police Department more accountable in any way, shape or form, it is somehow a personal slight against the chief,” Fletcher said. “This is not a question of his leadership.”
In a statement, Mayor Jacob Frey said he disagreed with the vote.
“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,” Frey said.
The vote is an abrupt change from the council’s November 7-6 decision to spend an additional $500,000 to hire additional officers to target violent crime.
The city has tallied nearly 80 homicides in 2020, the Star Tribune reported, outpacing 48 homicides in 2019.
The final vote is on Wednesday, but Frey holds veto power.