The Minneapolis City Council this week began its review of Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed $3.3 billion budget, unveiled last month, which emphasized efforts to bolster the police department’s ranks and improve public safety.
The biennial budget proposal – Frey’s first after Minneapolis voters denied a ballot measure in November that would have replaced the police department with a new department of public safety – features nearly $400 million over the two-year life of the budget — 2023-24 — for the police department.
As the council begins its review via hearings throughout the fall before adopting the budget in December, the public will have opportunities to weigh in on the plan and whether more money for the Minneapolis Police Department can solve its staffing woes.
Staffing public safety
The new Office of Community Safety – which will be headed by Commissioner Cedric Alexander – consolidates the city’s police, fire, 911 and emergency services departments alongside a new neighborhood safety department that includes the existing Office of Violence Prevention. The proposed budget includes about $2.4 million over two years for the salaries of Alexander and other staff positions, plus other expenses.
According to data from the city, Minneapolis had 604 sworn officers as of the end of August. That number drops to 571 when you subtract 33 officers on a continuous leave of 78 hours (roughly two weeks) or more.
That’s a major decline from the last week of May 2020, before George Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, when the city had 882 active officers, according to city data. Minneapolis isn’t alone in this issue, other big city police departments have seen declining ranks amid retirements, resignations and disability leaves following the unrest after Floyd’s death.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in June that the city must employ the minimum of 731 officers mandated by the city’s charter after a group of north Minneapolis residents that included former city council member Don Samuels sued the city.
To get the number of officers back up, the budget includes enough to fund an average of 731 officers in 2023 and 835 in 2024, Frey says, along with funding for four new classes of recruits each year.
Though Minneapolis officials expect attrition to be leveling off, recruiting back to full staffing levels will be a challenge after more than 400 sworn officers will have separated from the department by the end of 2022, according to an estimate from the department.
The mayor recommended adding $2 million in overtime funding for 2023 for a total of $8.6 million to compensate for the decreased number of officers and lower-than-expected hiring this year, as well as $1.5 million to fund contracts with other law enforcement agencies for support.
It also includes one-time funding of $740,000 in 2023 for a new internship pilot program for juniors and seniors in high school, an effort to get more students interested in careers in law enforcement. Frey said the program could help “recruit new applicants who reflect the communities they serve.”
Frey said in his budget address last month that the city used $7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to fund retention, recruitment and hiring efforts earlier this year, and another $1 million went to the department to improve lighting and cameras.
Other public safety efforts
The Office of Violence Prevention has been operating on $3.3 million in ARPA funds allotted to the department through next year. The money has funded programs like the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative, which treats violence as a public health problem and places “violence interrupters” who aim to prevent potentially violent situations through de-escalation around the city in areas experiencing more crime, including the Lake Street corridor and West Broadway Avenue.
The new budget provides nearly $2.4 million in ongoing funding for the department to continue its many programs that include gang violence intervention, hospital-based programs meant to connect victims with resources and youth intervention efforts.
The city’s Violence Prevention Fund, which funds community violence prevention projects like events, neighborhood beautification and public art projects, would also see a one-time $1 million boost in funding.
The Behavioral Crisis Response Team, an unarmed mental health response team that began as a pilot with Canopy Mental Health & Consulting, fielded 1,600 calls in less than four months with just two vans. The proposed budget gives them a boost of $1.45 million in 2023 and $2.9 million in ongoing funding in 2024 for the program to add three more vans to its roster and resources to provide 24-hour service, seven days a week.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) unveiled its report that found MPD had engaged in a pattern or practice of racial discrimination in its policing over the last 10 years.
As the city is currently negotiating a consent decree, or agreement that is enforceable in court, with MDHR, the Department of Justice is conducting its own pattern-or-practice investigation into the police department – though Frey in his budget address reaffirmed the city’s stance that it will only enter into one consent decree.
In anticipation of the ensuing consent decree (though two are possible), Frey set aside $5 million over the next two years to address the court-mandated changes after the city enters into the agreement following negotiations with MDHR.
The budget also funds three full-time positions for the Civil Rights Office of Police Conduct Review, which Frey said is a direct response to MDHR’s findings.
“We can’t wait for a consent decree to begin the important work and change we need to see,” he said. “This increased investigative capacity reduces existing caseload demands, which in turn gives the time to more thoroughly investigate.”
The City Council’s budget committee began having hearings on the mayor’s budget earlier this week, with public hearings expected to begin later this month. The committee will meet throughout the fall before voting on a final budget in December.
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