Minneapolis mayor, police chief speak against budget cuts

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis’ mayor and police chief spoke out Monday against a proposal to cut the police department’s budget by nearly $8 million, with the mayor saying the plan is irresponsible during a year that saw rising violent crime and the departures of dozens of officers.

Demands for change to the Minneapolis Police Department have been a focus since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Mayor Jacob Frey and Chief Medaria Arradondo said Monday they support community alternatives, but the department can’t face more budget cuts while it is already down 120 officers, with more planning to leave.

“This notion that in order to have a more comprehensive public safety strategy you have to do away with one critical element, which is police, is wrong,” Frey said. “We are hearing from communities right now that they are looking for a ‘both-and’ approach.”

“This is literally a life and death matter right now and we need to get it right,” he said, according to the  Star Tribune.

The proposed budget cut by three City Council members would move about 5 percent from the department’s budget to violence prevention, a mental health crisis team and other departments. While Frey’s budget proposal had a target of 888 officers, the members proposed 770 officers, eventually reducing to 750.

Frey’s budget plan includes about $1.5 billion in spending for 2021, including $179 million for the Police Department. His plan calls for adding three recruit classes to help offset departures of officers who left after Floyd’s death and protests in the city.

Arradondo, citing more than 500 shootings and nearly 80 homicides, said it would be “reckless and dangerous” to reduce officers before seeing the findings of a study on department staffing.

“We need to dream about a better future but we cannot sleepwalk on public safety of our residences and our businesses,” Arradondo said. “Crime is occurring, the shootings, the carjackings, the robberies. They are citywide, they are impacting everyone, and not just one constituency base and not just one neighborhood.”

In an e-mail to constituents Monday, Council Member Steve Fletcher, who was among those proposing budget cuts, said his proposal is a data-driven solution to start changing the current policing structure.