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Crime-Plagued Minneapolis Approves Cuts to Police Budget

MAYOR: 'Today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future in Minneapolis....'

(Headline USA) The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a budget early Thursday that will shift about $8 million from the police department toward violence prevention and other programs — but will keep the mayor’s targeted staffing levels for sworn officers intact, averting a possible veto.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who had threatened to veto the entire budget if the council went ahead with its plan to cap police staffing, said the vote was a defining moment for the city, which has experienced soaring crime rates amid calls to defund the police since the May 25 death of George Floyd.

“We all share a deep and abiding reverence for the role our local government plays in service of the people of our city,” Frey said. “And today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future in Minneapolis.”

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.

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“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.”

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 ignited mass demonstrations against police brutality and a nationwide reckoning with racism.

The 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.

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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.”

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 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.

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% from the same period last year. Violent crimes have topped 5,100, compared with just over 4,000 for the same period in 2019.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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