MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A $1.6 billion spending plan is up for debate in Minneapolis and one of the hottest topics at a meeting Wednesday night is police staffing.
People waited for hours to speak in front of the City Council Wednesday. The majority of them were concerned about nearly $9 million going to the Minneapolis Police Department. They feel the money could be spent on other programs.
“Reclaim the Block” is the community organization leading the efforts to oppose the addition of 14 officers to the force. They presented a petition to the City Council with over 700 signatures of Minneapolis residents who would rather see the money go towards funding the Office of Violence Prevention, investing in homeless youth shelters, funding more programs to tackle opioid addiction and sending a mental health team rather than police when someone calls 911 in crisis.
Initially, Chief Medaria Arradondo wanted 400 officers added over the next few years to keep up with the demand of service calls and retirements, but Mayor Jacob Frey reduced that number to just 14 for 2020 and recommended $8.5 million goes to the department.
With recent gun violence bringing the city’s homicides to 44, there are conflicting approaches from community members on how to keep residents safe.
“We need police. We are getting killed in these neighborhoods. If you aren’t in, then don’t say anything to me. I’m watching to deaths,” said Al Flowers, who is in favor of adding officers.
“Increasing policing is not only a false solution, it’s a slap in the face to people of color and immigrants who are disproportionately over-represented in the incarceration rate in this state,” said someone who opposed the officer increase.
Minneapolis Police Union President Lt. Bob Kroll says the department is severely understaffed. Within the five precincts across the city, there are three major shift changes and he says with the addition of 14 officers, that won’t even add one more per shift.
“Cities range from two officers per 1,000 people to four officers per 1,000. We are at the two mark. So, if you compare us to other similar-sized cities, they have nearly twice as many officers.”
This is the second public hearing on next year’s budget. Friday, the Budget Committee will make amendments and a final vote will be taken next Wednesday.