Social justice groups push for $84 million in cuts to Minneapolis Police Department

While discussion continues in public hearings over the proposed nearly $8 million cut to the Minneapolis Police Department budget, some social justice groups and businesses are voicing support for a different proposal that calls for a much larger redirection of funds.

As a business owner on a main thoroughfare in the Kingfield neighborhood in south Minneapolis, Dan Swenson-Klatt has on occasion had to call police.

"We still need police officers as a small business," said Swenson-Klatt. "We still need the ability to call on someone when we need that level of strength or authority to support us."

However, he’s also one of a few businesses supporting the "People’s Budget," a proposal crafted by several social justice organizations to move funds from the Minneapolis Police Department to more community-based programs.

"Moving some of the money that’s there into other spaces gives me the ability to call on people who could be helpful in a mental health crisis, who could be helpful to deal with a homeless person who’s landed here at our shop and needs some support," said Swenson-Klatt.

"Our plan takes a holistic view towards safety. So, you feel safer if you have a home, you feel safer if the air is clean in your neighborhood, you feel safer if you have access to healthcare you can afford,” said Sheila Nezhad of Reclaim the Block. “[These are] the things we need to be investing in instead of continuing to to throw money at police.”

Nezhad says a proposal from three city council members to re-direct some funds away from the Minneapolis Police Department and reduce staffing capacity by more than 130 sworn officers doesn’t go far enough. This proposal would re-direct more than $84 million compared to the roughly $8 million outlined in the council members’ proposal.

"When you look at the concepts within this, it’s not that radical," said Nezhad. "Now is the time for our council members to be bold and visionary."

Swenson-Klatt says he believes bold and visionary is what’s best for everyone. 

"It gets pitted as get rid of police, as opposed to give police a job that’s best for them," he said.

Nezhad said the path forward for the People’s Budget would be through amendments to the mayor’s current budget proposal. Amendments are presented by city council members. Nezhad was hoping to get council support ahead of a Thursday budget committee hearing.

The council is scheduled to vote on the mayor’s budget next Wednesday.