The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday approved shifting nearly $8 million away from the city’s police department, but declined to reduce the size of the force, in its first budget since the death of George Floyd became a flashpoint for reform six months ago.
The council voted 7-6 to cut $7.7 million from the police budget proposal submitted by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, reducing its total funding to $172 million. The reallocated funds, instead, will be spent on violence prevention and efforts to create a mental health crisis response team.
But in a late turnaround, the council opted to reject a proposal that would have reduced the Minneapolis Police Department to 750 officers, starting in 2022.
Frey had sought to keep a target level of 888 officers and threatened to veto the budget if cuts to police staff were approved.
The council’s vote early Thursday followed hours of emotional testimony on Wednesday from Minneapolis residents and political leaders, who debated how the city should respond to widespread calls for police reform after the death of Floyd — a Black man who was killed by white Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Video of Floyd’s arrest and death, caused by one officer pressing his knee down on Floyd’s neck for close to 10 minutes, fueled outrage and led to demonstrations nationwide that called for immediate and substantial reforms.
In Minneapolis alone, hundreds of businesses were damaged during the protests at an estimated cost of $500 million.
“I urge you to fund profound change in how we run our city and care for each other,” one resident said during the virtual hearing. “Put money where your mouth is.
“If you [council members] can’t commit to funding real solutions to the many crises Minneapolis faces, why are you even representing us?”
The decision to retain current police staffing levels was a defeat for Council President Lisa Bender, who had promised to “end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department.”
However, she lauded the decision to shift funding from the police force to violence prevention.
“The budget makes important investments in affordable housing, health and economic recovery,” she tweeted.
“My colleagues were right to leave the targeted staffing level unchanged … and continue moving forward with our shared priorities,” Frey said in a statement.
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