Brooklyn Center city leaders debate budget that would cut police funds

The Brooklyn Center City Council is expected to vote Monday on a plan to cut $1.2 million from the police budget to create new public safety departments. 

The vote would remove $1.2 million from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, eliminate 14 currently vacant police officer positions, and reallocate that money into the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community and Safety Prevention Act.

The "Safety Act," as it’s referred to in City Council documents, would include:

  • A Community Response Department staffed by civilians responding to calls related to mental health crises and other events.
  • A Traffic Enforcement Department, a group of unarmed civilians who respond to non-moving traffic violations.
  • A Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that would include community-based efforts to improve safety and prevent violent crime.

The proposal would decrease funding to the city’s police department by 30 percent. Currently, the city budget allows for 49 officer positions. There are currently 32 active-duty officers on the force right now.

The police union that represents Brooklyn Center Police Officers has come out against the proposal saying it would be "detrimental" to public safety.

"With these changes if you take 30 percent of the department and defund that department of those 14 officer positions those call for service do not go away. In fact, they’re probably going to increase substantially so who is going to respond to those?" Executive Director of Law Enforcement Labor Services, Jim Mortenson said.

Mortenson says the city’s investigative team went from nine people down to three in the last year. He says if the resolution passes, that department could lose even more people.

"Many of these calls for service, they’re not even having any further investigative follow-up done on them, such as burglary, auto theft things of that nature," Mortenson said.

The Brooklyn Center City Council approved the creation of the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community and Safety Prevention Act back in May and have been using other methods to fund the program.

The proposal to move $1.2 million from the police department to the "Safety Act" includes a breakdown of how the money would be allocated. The proposal suggests $950 thousand would go towards the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. $270 thousand would go towards the Traffic Enforcement Department and Pilot Study. $350 would go towards Community Programming and Supportive Programs. The budget also includes $500 thousand in grants.

Those in favor of re-allocating public safety funding say the change would create the opportunity to build community-driven public safety that could address public safety issues before they become a threat to the public.

One of the groups advocating for these changes in Brooklyn Center is Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. Their founder, Toshira Garraway, says continued funding to police departments have not made many communities safer and thinks it’s time to try something new.

"Right now, going about it the same way we’ve gone about it over and over and over again, it’s not getting us anywhere and it’s time to take a different approach," Garraway said.

Garraway says investments in mentorship programs, recreation centers and investment in community healing and relationship building would address crime at its core.

"How much do people expect the community’s backs to be pushed up against a wall? The community is begging and pleading for help for the funding to be put in other areas that will stop the crime in the communities," Garraway said.

Curfew measure fails during Brooklyn Center City Council vote

A measure to empower the Brooklyn Center city manager to call a curfew in event of disorder following the verdict in the trial of Kim Potter failed during a city council vote on Monday.

The emergency ordinance needed a unanimous vote to be approved but failed on a 3-2 count, with Mayor Mike Elliot and Council member Marquita Butler voting against the measure.

The city still has the power to call a curfew in the event of any trouble the city could encounter around the Potter trial. Potter is charged with manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright after Wright was shot during a traffic stop last April.

During that unrest, the mayor called curfews for several nights. Speaking on Monday, city leaders said the city manager would only call a curfew if the verdict in the trial led to troubles, like increased criminal activity which requires support from neighboring police agencies. But language included in the city's agenda seemed to pre-emptively call a curfew for the night Potter's verdict comes down and gives the city manager the power to extend it if the situation fits the outlined circumstances. 

Councilmember Marquita Butler, along with several community members, questioned the "emergency" status of the measure, saying no emergency yet exists. Instead, they say the city is predicting an emergency that may or may not happen.

Curfews were implemented earlier this year when protesters and police clashed for days after Wright’s death.