Minneapolis budget passes with police funding cut, but keeps larger staffing level target

The Minneapolis City Council passed a 2021 budget early Thursday morning that shifts nearly $8 million from the city’s police department to fund alternative public safety strategies, but allows room for future police recruitment. 

A key moment came when the council voted 7-6 to pass a motion regarding police staffing. Through the "Safety for All" plan, the sworn officer capacity would have been reduced to 750 in 2022 and beyond – a decrease that Mayor Jacob Frey had threatened to veto the budget over. The approved motion removed that language and instead increased the vacant sworn positions to 140, which allows room for recruitment. It’s important to note this does not impact staffing level for 2021.

Frey applauded the vote with the new language, which was in line with his original budget vision.

"Today’s vote reflects our commitment to a both-and approach to public safety in this defining moment for our city," said Frey in statement. "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."

Minneapolis Council President Lisa Bender, who co-authored the "Safety for All" plan was also in opposition to motion regarding police staffing.

"Despite having no realistic plan to hire 140 new officers in 2022, the Mayor threatened to veto a budget that invests in community safety, health, eviction prevention, affordable housing, economic recovery and other investments that are needed now more than ever," said Council President Lisa Bender. "The amendment to forecast funding for vacant positions in the police department in future years was the only change made to our Safety for All Budget plan tonight, and all Council Members who spoke expressed their continued commitment to transforming our system of public safety." 

Included in the passed budget is the "Safety for All" plan that will redirect $7.7 million from the police department to fund alternative public safety strategies, such as mental health crisis teams. The budget is the latest attempt by council members to reimagine the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s death in May. The council tried to "defund" the police over the summer, but their effort to put a referendum on the November ballot was blocked by the city's Charter Commission. 

"The City Council has stepped up to lead, working together to respond to complex demands from a community reeling from police violence, community violence and the social unrest that followed George Floyd’s death," said Bender in a statement.

The budget now goes to Frey's desk for approval.

For five and a half hours before the final budget discussions by the council, hundreds got a final chance to weigh in during public comment.

Some community members, however, expressed support for the "People's Budget," which was created by social justice groups and outlines $84 million in cuts to the police department's funding.

"There is no saving or reforming a system that functions this way," said Brian Fanelli, who spoke in support of the "People's Budget" during public comment. "We all want MPLS to be a safe city, but police did not make George Floyd safer. They murdered and because police exist to prioritize white comfort over Black and Brown lives, they will continue murdering and terrorizing people of color in our city, until we take away their ability to do so."

Others voiced support of the mayor and police department's budget proposal.

"Demonizing and defunding law enforcement may make you feel good in the moment, but it does not solve the problems in the 21st century," said Tim Keane, who voiced support for the mayor's budget. "We are not going to reform the MPD with slogans and gimmicks, it requires hard work and time."