Report: Minneapolis city council tries again, preparing new plan to replace city’s police department

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MINNEAPOLIS, MI- According to a report from the StarTribune, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, some Minneapolis City Council members are preparing a “new” plan that seeks to replace the city’s police department.

Council members Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder are working on a proposal to create a new public safety department that removes the police department as a standalone department from the city charter.

The three of them are working on their plan and expect to release it by the end of January 2020. It would then require voter approval. Cunningham told the newspaper that the proposal might place oversight of the new department on par with many other city departments.

This would give council legislative authority while the mayor would retain executive authority. Mychal Vlatkovich, a spokesman for Mayor Jacob Frey, said the mayor had concerns about “clarity of command,” but would still review the proposal once it is ready.

Frey has concerns that it would “diminish accountability by requiring police Chief Medaria Arradondo to report to 14 different elected officials with divergent public safety priorities.” Vlatkovich said in a statement:

“The mayor has deep reservations about the potentially negative impact on the delivery of vital public safety services and clarity of command in moments of crisis.”

The city and police department have come under pressure to overhaul policing since Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. Over the last several months, several council members have tried and failed to eliminate the police department. 

Their proposal to form a “new public safety unit” was blocked when the city’s charter commission declined to advance the idea to the November ballot. The new proposal could place police and other public safety programs under a new department. Cunningham said:

“This is really about bringing together different public safety strategies with law enforcement to be able to achieve better outcomes for all of the residents of our city.”

Back in August 2020, The Associated Press (AP) reported that city leaders will face a more incremental and challenging path to rebuilding the often criticized police department. However, it seems they refuse to give up. Council President Lisa Bender said in a statement:

“The Charter Commission blocking this question form going on the ballot will slow progress because of the way our city government is structured and the realities of municipal government.”

She added:

“We are still pursuing all of this other work related to investing in violence prevention and reimagining public safety. It will not happen as quickly now.”

In its first response to Floyd’s death, City Council responded by proposing an amendment to the city’s charter that would have replaced the Police Department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.”

This new department would prioritize public health and have a director with “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services.” 

The city’s charter, which serves as its constitution, has become a focal point in many of the conversations over the months since Floyd’s death about how to change policing and public safety. 

The charter now says that Minneapolis must have a Police Department with a minimum force based on the city’s population. It also gives the mayor “complete power” over the department’s operations, but gives the City Council responsibility for funding it.

During a recent council meeting, Cunningham, Fletcher, and Schroeder said they will “give notice” of their intent to introduce a charter amendment that would create a new department to “provide public safety services, including law enforcement.”

Before the measure can appear on the ballot, it needs to go through a series of City Council meetings and a review by the court-appointed Charter Commission. This will be the second charter amendment proposed by council members since Floyd’s death. 

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Minneapolis City Council cuts $8M from police budget, but folds on reducing manpower under Mayor’s veto threat

December 12th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MN The Minneapolis Police Department budget has just taken another hit, but the city council seems more reserved in their position, possibly trying to satisfy both sides of the police defunding argument.

The Minneapolis City Council passed a budget early Thursday that moves about $8 million from the Police Department to other services but preserves its plan to hire more officers in future years. 

A late change to the department’s staffing projections passed along a narrow 7-6 vote but did not change the number of officers who will work in 2021. Instead, the move avoided a political showdown with Mayor Jacob Frey.

The city expects a monthly average of 770 police officers will work in 2021 if the council agrees to release funding for some recruit classes.  The City Council had initially planned to drop the force’s authorized size to 750 officers starting in 2022 but reversed course late Wednesday.

Frey, who sought to keep the current target level of 888, had said he was considering vetoing the budget because he was concerned about “the massive permanent cut to officer capacity” in future years.

In a statement early Thursday, Frey applauded the council’s vote on the budget:

“My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities. 

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 2021 budget served as the latest venue for debates on changing the police department after George Floyd’s death and a subsequent pledge by a majority of council members to end the department.

As the talks unfolded, city leaders deliberated on whether they should leave the department mostly intact while building out new services or cut the department to fund them.

The new council-approved $1.5 billion budget will dedicate at least $400,000 to the Minneapolis Forward Community Now Coalition and $1.1 million in ongoing funding to the Minneapolis Forward Rebuild Resilient initiative to support economic recovery.

While the city is seeking to change its public safety system, it is also experiencing a crime wave that includes more than 500 shootings, and a previously reported 537% increase in the number of carjackings, compared to 2019.

Frey pitched a $1.5 billion spending plan that included about $179 million for the police department, down from about $193 million initially approved for it in 2020.

The council cut an additional $7.7 million from the police department, directly the funds instead for mental health crisis teams, training dispatchers to assess mental health calls, and have other employees handle theft and property damage reports.

The council also placed $11.4 million in a reserve fund they created. That fund will include about $6.4 million that was included in Frey’s plan to hire two police recruit classes and about $5 million that could be used to offset cuts council members made to police overtime. To access that money, the police department will need additional approval from the City Council in votes next year.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told council members earlier this week that they needed additional overtime in 2021 to make sure officers are available to answer 911 calls amid a shortage, and to prepare for the potential for more unrest associated with the trials of ex-officers charged in Floyd’s death.

Arradondo told the city council in their latest meeting:

“It is a natural necessity to have overtime.  If our officers are out at a call, be it an accident or an assault, or a robbery, they will not just stop their duties when their 10-hour shift is up. They will stay there to complete the task.”

Arradondo said the department, which had 874 officers at the beginning of the year, is effectively down 166 officers, between officers who have resigned and officers who are on leave. The department’s leave figures are far higher than average this year, in part because a large number of officers filed PTSD claims after the summer rioting.

The council voted 7-6 Wednesday night to restore the police manning level to 888, with Vice President Andrea Jenkins as the swing vote.

Jenkins said it was a difficult decision. She voted the opposite way earlier in the week.  She explained:

“The reality right now is that Chief Arradondo is woefully understaffed for a variety of reasons.  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.”

Councilmember Steve Fletcher, the most liberal and outspoken critic of the police department, said:

“I cannot believe the mayor threatened a veto on this topic.  We are talking about officers that do not exist and nobody is proposing in 2021.”

If Mayor Frey approves the budget, the discussion next year will be about whether to cut or add to a department authorized to employ 888 officers. Had the council’s earlier plan remained in place, the discussion would have been about whether to cut or add to a department designed for 750 officers.

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Violent crime continues to explode in Minneapolis, yet the city council is still trying to defund the police

December 8, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, IN – As Minneapolis continues to see a spike in crime, city council leaders are hard-pressed to strike a deal about the future of policing in a city that has faced continuous protests over the death of George Floyd.

The Star Tribune reported that the city council is scrambling to adopt its first budget since Floyd’s death and that public comments have been pouring into city hall about whether to redirect some of the police department’s funding.

On the one hand, advocates for a smaller department see it as a crucial opportunity to divert police resources into mental health services and alternative response types to non-violent emergency calls. Some say that while they support funding this initiative, they are not willing to sacrifice police spending amid a worrisome spike in violent crimes such as carjackings, homicides, and other crimes.

City officials have been consumed by the issue in recent days as they weigh competing public safety proposals and concerns.

Reportedly, on November 27, Council President Lisa Bender and Council Member Phillipe Cunningham previewed a plan to take nearly $8 million from Mayor Jacob Frey’s recommended 2021 budget marked for the police department and use it to pay for mental health crisis teams, violence prevention programs, and other initiatives. 

Frey called the proposal “irresponsible,” stating that while he supported the concepts, they should not be paid from the police department’s already tight budget. According to police department statistics, more than 500 people have been shot in Minneapolis this year and there were more than 125 carjackings in two months.

Sondra Samuels, who has lived in north Minneapolis for nearly 23 years, said that she has never experienced crime like this before. She said that multiple shootings have directly impacted people she knows. She said:

“Policing is not going to solve all of our crime and safety issues, but we also know that without it, at the height of crime and safety issues, your citizens will remain unsafe. More are going to die, more are going to be carjacked.

“What they’re trying to do is dismantle the police, and in doing so, they are dismantling the city.”

According to reports, council members will continue their discussions again this week because of disagreements related to sorting out police funding. The final vote is to take place on Wednesday, December 9. 

Jamal Osman, a newly-elected council member in Ward 6, called on his fellow council members to find different ways to fund their ideas. Osman said:

“Taking money from MPD or taking money here and there is not going to solve the problem of mental health.”

https://twitter.com/DixieleeO/status/1335828042883612673

Don Samuels, the CEO of MicroGrants, said council leaders need more community engagement to better understand their constituents. He said:

“There’s no process here. This is a totally top-down power move on the part of the council. No conversation.”

According to reports, violent crime has surged to record highs across Minneapolis. At the end of September, the city had logged 3,674 violent crimes, including homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. This up 17 percent from the previous five-year average for the time period. 

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is attempting to seek additional funding from the city to combat the surge in violent crime. He has said that his department is not equipped to deal with the spike because of officer shortages following the death of Floyd.

According to the chief, 74 people have been killed and roughly 500 wounded, the highest number in 15 years, while the number of working officers has decreased by 143 from the beginning of the year. Reportedly, 121 of the department’s force are on leave, some citing PTSD from the unrest that followed Floyd’s death.

Arradondo is asking for an additional $500,000 to the department’s roughly $185 million budget, which he plans to use to bring in 20 to 40 officers from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Metro Police Transit.

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