Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender and two other members unveiled a plan Friday to cut nearly $8 million from the Minneapolis Police Department and limit the number of officers it can hire to the already depleted force.
The announcement drew early concerns from Mayor Jacob Frey’s office and set the tone for a frantic week and a half of budget negotiations as some look to cut from the department and others aim to bolster it amid a spike in violent crime.
This will be the first time city leaders are negotiating a full budget since George Floyd’s death, and they have faced intense lobbying from residents who are making competing demands on policing.
The new proposal — written by Bender and Council Members Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher — would move nearly $8 million from the Police Department to violence prevention, a mental health crisis team and other departments that could help process reports of property damage and parking violations.
The council members’ proposal would fund a department with roughly 770 officers and reduce the authorized force size to 750 in future years. That’s far lower than the 888 “target level” included in Frey’s budget proposal.
The three council members were on the losing side of a 7-6 vote this month to spend $500,000 for other law enforcement agencies to help the Minneapolis police patrol the city.
The mayor’s office said in a statement that he is open to discussions about finding alternative ways to respond to nonviolent 911 calls and has included similar efforts in his own plan.
“He would have significant concerns if his colleagues attempted to make such large, permanent cuts to the number of officers in the department without sound data or community input to support such a decision,” the statement said.
Frey’s budget plan includes roughly $1.5 billion in spending for 2021, about $179 million of which would go to the Police Department.
His plan calls for adding three recruit classes to help offset a wave of officer departures following Floyd’s death and the related rioting.
The department had 874 officers at the beginning of the year — though it was authorized for 888.
As of early November, it had 834, with 121 out on some form of leave.
If the additional recruit classes are approved, Frey’s office expects the average monthly number of officers working in 2021 would be about 770, in part because it takes a significant amount of time to train new officers.
He had continued to list 888 as the “target level” of officers for 2021 in hopes it would ease their ability to continue hiring in the future.
Fletcher said their plan calls for keeping those recruit classes intact for 2021 and reducing the force size in future years.
“We’re saying plan for 750 instead of 888,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher added that he thought budgeting for the lower number of officers would give the city greater flexibility as it seeks to transform public safety.
He said they hope that transferring some nonviolent calls to other departments will reduce the police officers’ workloads.
“I think this is really an important response to both the urgency people are expressing around crime and safety today and to the long-term project of transformation,” he said.
In a statement Friday, Bender said the “city cannot afford the status quo in public safety — not in the harm it causes to our community and not in the financial cost from police behavior.”
“This proposal makes strategic investments to increase safety now and transform our public safety system to send the right response to community needs.”
The council will add amendments to the budget next week.
For the police proposal to move forward, it will need approval from seven council members.