Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and chief Medaria Arradondo on Monday struck back at a proposal by three of City Council members to cut the Minneapolis police budget by nearly $8 million, with Frey calling the plan “irresponsible and untenable” amid a year of rising violent crime and a shrinking police force.

Although both said they support some community alternatives and reforms in policing, they said it cannot come at the cost of further cuts to the department already facing historic attrition rates — the department is down 120 officers since the start of the year, with more destined for departure.

“This notion that in order to have a more comprehensive public safety strategy you have to do away with one critical element, which is police, is wrong,” Frey said. “We are hearing from communities right now that they are looking for a ‘both-and’ approach.”

“This is literally a life and death matter right now and we need to get it right,” he said.

The proposal by a trio of City Council members — including President Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher — would move roughly 5% from MPD to violence prevention, a mental health crisis team and other departments that could help process reports of property damage and parking violations.

The council members’ proposal would fund a department with roughly 770 officers and reduce the authorized force size to 750 in future years. That’s far lower than the 888 “target level” included in Frey’s budget proposal.

The three council members were on the losing side of a 7-6 vote this month to spend $500,000 for other law enforcement agencies to help the Minneapolis police patrol the city.

Frey’s budget plan includes roughly $1.5 billion in spending for 2021, about $179 million of which would go to the Police Department. His plan calls for adding three recruit classes to help offset a wave of officer departures following Floyd’s death and the related rioting.

Arradondo cited more than 500 shootings and nearly 80 homicides, saying it would be “reckless and dangerous” to reduce department numbers without awaiting the results of a city-sanctioned study of MPD staffing numbers.

“We need to dream about a better future but we cannot sleepwalk on public safety of our residences and our businesses,” Arradondo said. “Crime is occurring, the shootings, the carjackings, the robberies. They are citywide, they are impacting everyone, and not just one constituency base and not just one neighborhood.”

In an e-mail to constituents Monday, Fletcher lauded the “Safety for All Budget Proposal” as a data-driven solution to start transforming the current policing structure, while reigning in overtime spending by MPD.

“These investments will reduce the burden on our police department, deliver more effective and appropriate responses when people in our communities need help, and prevent and interrupt cycles of violence,” he wrote.

Minneapolis residents are still torn over whether the Police Department is best suited to improve safety in the city — and how much to invest in it — months after the police killing of George Floyd and in a year marred by violent crime.

This is a breaking news story. Check back at Startribune.com for updates.


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