The Minneapolis City Council has approved about $1.5 million in cuts to the city’s police force while revising the 2020 budget.
The cuts, which represent less than 1% of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) budget, came as part of a larger effort to trim about $156 million from the city’s $1.6 billion 2020 budget to account for revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic.
About $1.1 million of the money cut from the police budget will go into the Office of Violence Prevention under an amendment from Council Member Phillipe Cunningham (Ward 4). The funding will mostly support a program called “Cure Violence,” which seeks to interrupt cycles of retaliatory attacks by sending trained interventionists to work with gunshot victims and others connected to the event.
An additional $100,000 was taken from the MPD to support programs combating HIV/AIDS, supporting healthy living in low-income housing and providing youth services in Cedar-Riverside that would have seen budget cuts during the revision under amendments proposed by Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2). Other police department cuts include removing a pawn shop sales tracking program and reallocating funds to ensure the continuation of a program supporting Minneapolis artists doing public projects.
A proposal to reallocate $500,000 from MPD into the Office of Violence Prevention to train community watch groups was ultimately removed.
The cuts are well below what some residents have advocated for since George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day. Activists with groups like Reclaim the Block had been requesting the City Council remove $45 million from MPD’s budget to help balance the books in 2020.
Council President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) said each dollar invested in violence prevention will reap dividends in the future.
“We know we need to see these impacts very quickly,” Bender said.
In addition to budget cuts, the City Council voted to move MPD’s public information officer position into the city communications department, a move opposed by press groups like the Society of Professional Journalists. The department’s record’s information unit, which handles data requests, was transferred to the city clerk’s office.
Council Member Lisa Goodman (Ward 7) said changing the PIO from the police department is “not transformational change” and voted against the amendment.
Actions taken at the onset of the crisis, like a wage and hiring freeze, helped patch a portion of the projected $156 million revenue shortfall, but the City Council had to make an additional $98 million worth of cuts, according to budget director Micah Intermill.
The mayor’s proposed revisions called for saving about $4 million via voluntary furloughs and payroll reductions, patching the budget using $57.7 million in cash reserves and eliminating about $23 million in one-time spending for 2020.
Bender said she was concerned about the amount of reserve cash being used to patch the 2020 budget and expressed fear that the impacts of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time.
The process for forming the 2021 budget will begin this month, with Mayor Jacob Frey and several council members saying they will look for more substantial changes to public safety.