Lydia Catling, Daily Mail, December 10, 2020
Minneapolis City Council on Thursday approved a controversial budget which is set to move $8million of funding from the police – despite record crime rates since the May death of George Floyd.
Mayor Jacob Frey, who had threatened to veto the entire budget if the council went ahead with a plan to cap police staffing, said the vote was a defining moment for the city which was the first to be hit by anti-police protests following the death of Floyd.
The city has been plagued by soaring violent crime since then – with homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and arson all up on last year’s figures.
Police have recorded 532 gunshot victims this year as of last Thursday, more than double the same period a year ago. Carjackings have also spiked to 375 so far this year, up 331 percent from the same period last year. And violent crimes have topped 5,100, compared with just over 4,000 for the same period in 2019.
Around 160 officers are said to have resigned or be on leave from the force compared to the start of the year. That is partly due to officers claiming post-traumatic stress disorder from a summer of unrest — with more preparing to leave amid retirements and poor morale, reports say.
Joe Biden told civil rights leaders that the ‘defund police’ slogan was the reason Democrats experienced widespread losses in congressional races across the country on November 3.
‘That’s how they beat the living hell out of us across the country, saying that we’re talking about defunding the police,’ Biden said during a two-hour closed-door meeting with civil rights leaders on Tuesday, according to audio of the meeting obtained by Bad News.
Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Bob Kroll told Fox News: ‘The City Council is decimating the police department.
‘The number of working officers is the lowest it’s been in 50 years. Murders, shootings, and other violent crimes are approaching record levels. Our officers are severely overworked, understaffed, and cannot keep the public safe with these cuts.’
The city council had initially approved a proposal to cut the city’s authorized police force to 750 officers, down from the current 888, beginning in 2022.
But they changed course late Wednesday after the mayor called the move ‘irresponsible.’ The council voted 7-6 on Wednesday to keep the cap at 888.
‘Tonight the city council passed a budget that represents a compromise, and also a big step forward into a more compassionate and effective public safety future,’ said city council member Steve Fletcher, co-author of the proposal to lower the cap on staffing.
He said the city council has more work to do and ‘we cannot afford to remain stuck in the past any longer.’
Minneapolis Mayor Frey said: ‘We all share a deep and abiding reverence for the role our local government plays in service of the people of our city. And today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future in Minneapolis.’
Supporters call the city council’s plan ‘Safety for All,’ the latest version of the ‘defund the police’ movement that Minneapolis and other cities have considered since Floyd’s death.
More progressive factions of the Democratic Party have embraced the movement to defund law enforcement. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has pushed the slogan, and establishment Democrats blame her and others for this rhetoric allowing Republicans to flip 14 House seats from blue to red.
But House Majority Whip James Clyburn and even former President Barack Obama have blamed the ‘defund police’ slogan and other ‘snapp slogans’ on costing them votes.
Biden insisted Thursday ‘we’re not’ trying to defund police, but rather ‘hold them accountable’ and reallocate money.
‘We’re talking about giving them money to do the right things,’ Biden continued. ‘We’re talking about putting more psychologists and psychiatrists on the telephones when the 911 calls through. We’re talking about spending money to enable them to do their jobs better, not with more force, with less force and more understanding.’
The former vice president also vowed he would create a commission on police reform. ‘I guarantee you, there will be a full blown commission. I guarantee you it’s a major, major, major element,’ Biden said.
The Minneapolis plan cuts nearly $8 million from Frey’s $179 million policing budget and redirects it to mental health teams, violence prevention programs and other initiatives.
The council has also set aside a $11.4million reserve fund, which will provide more than $6million for Frey’s plan to hire new recruits, Star Tribune reports.
In order to get hold the of the money, the police department will have to approach the council next year and seek approval.
Police chief Medaria Arradondo informed the council this week that the police department will need more overtime next year in order to meet demands from the public as crime soars and the trial of the former officers charged in relation to Floyd’s death is scheduled to take place in March.
More than 300 Minneapolis residents signed up to speak about the proposal Wednesday, with some pleading for City Council members to deliver the reforms they promised after Floyd’s death, and others warning it would be irresponsible to cut officers.
Some in favor of the plan called police officers cowards, gang members, white supremacists or terrorists.
They spoke about violence that African Americans and other minorities have experienced at the hands of police.
Those against the plan said the City Council was acting irresponsibly and has bungled its attempts to bring change. They cited increasing violence, saying they don’t feel safe.
‘The place I grew up this summer burned,’ said Will Roberts, who grew up in the Longfellow neighborhood. ‘And it burned because of police misconduct.’
Loraine Teel, of south Minneapolis, said she supported the mayor’s position, telling council members: ‘You cannot achieve reform without a plan that includes the cooperation of those being reformed … You have failed miserably.’
Cities around the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York City and Portland, Oregon, are shifting funds from police departments to social services programs in an effort to provide new solutions for problems traditionally handled by police.
Such cuts have led some departments to lay off officers, cancel recruiting classes or retreat from hiring goals.
In Minneapolis, violent crime rates have surged since the death of Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed and pleading for air for several minutes while Derek Chauvin, a white former officer, pressed his knee against his neck.
Chauvin and three others were charged in Floyd’s death and are expected to stand trial in March.
‘This summer happened because George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department and it wasn’t an accident, it’s because the system of policing we know now is not just racist, but it doesn’t create safety for all,’ said Oluchi Omeoga, a cofounder of Black Visions, which supports ‘Safety for All’ as a step toward more transformational change.
Following the increase in crime, the city was forced to plead for reinforcements from the sheriff’s office and the transit authority in November to help them respond to the surge in violent 911 calls.
Due to austerity forced by the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor’s proposal already includes a $14 million cut to the department compared with its original 2020 budget, mostly through attrition.
Frey aims to hold the number of sworn officers around 770 through 2021 with hopes of eventually increasing the force to its current authorized cap of 888.
The department is already down by about 120 – partly due to officers claiming post-traumatic stress disorder from a summer of unrest – with more preparing to leave amid retirements and poor morale.
A proposal over the summer to dismantle the department and replace it with a ‘Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention’ initially had support from a majority of the council but faltered when a separate city commission voted against putting it on the November ballot.
The city was paying $4,500 a day at one point for private security for three council members who reported getting threats after supporting defunding.