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Minneapolis mayor unveils plan to boost police funding closer to previous levels

The mayor’s $1.6 billion spending plan includes nearly $192 million for the Minneapolis Police Department


Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a press conference about public safety in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Photo/Stephen Maturen of Getty Images via TNS

By Liz Navratil
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey unveiled a budget plan Friday that seeks to replenish police funding to nearly the level it was before George Floyd’s killing.

The mayor’s $1.6 billion spending plan, unveiled during a virtual speech Friday afternoon, includes nearly $192 million for the Minneapolis Police Department, whose fate will come before voters in the November election.

“Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis became ground zero in the debate around the future of public safety and a case study in the dangers of grand pronouncements with little planning,” Frey said.

He added that while the city has invested in other safety programs, “It would be disingenuous to expect these new, complementary programs to succeed simply by breaking down the work of others.”

Frey’s 25-minute speech touched on a question that has dogged city officials since Floyd’s death: If they want to build violence prevention and mental health programs, should they use police funding to do that, or pull from other pools of money?

The mayor’s speech kicked off a monthslong budget negotiation process that will finish in December, weeks after the election but before the next class of elected officials is sworn in. Besides also increasing funding for violence prevention, the mayor’s proposal includes plans to boost affordable housing and programs aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

Policing, though, is the subject that has captured national attention, as people wait to see whether — and how — Minneapolis will fulfill a promise to transform public safety in the wake of Floyd’s murder by a police officer.

Policing and public safety have become central issues in the races for mayor and City Council, and political committees campaigning for and against the replacement of the Police Department have brought in more than $1 million this year alone.

To fund his spending plan, Frey would rely on a 5.45% property tax levy increase, American Rescue Plan funding, and cash on hand. The city estimates the levy increase will amount to $140 for an owner-occupied home valued at $297,000, $360 for an apartment building valued at slightly more than $1 million, and $186 for a commercial building valued at $529,000.

The Minneapolis Police Department began 2020 with a roughly $193 million budget, a number that was later reduced amid the coronavirus pandemic and a national debate on policing following Floyd’s killing.

As they settled on spending figures for the city’s police department in 2021, the mayor and a divided City Council intensely debated whether police funding should be used to increase violence prevention and mental health programs.

They settled on a $164 million police budget for this year — with the caveat that police could access an additional $11 million in reserves if they received approval from the City Council. With that money since released, and American Rescue Plan funding infused, the Police Department now has roughly $180 million to spend this year.

Frey wants to add more money in 2022, giving the Police Department a $191.9 million budget. His plan calls for adding five recruit and cadet classes, in hopes of giving the department a monthly average staffing of 756 police officers. Among other efforts, it includes money to contract with mutual aid agencies, provide overtime to work with violence prevention teams, increase health and wellness programs, and purchase an early intervention program to flag problematic behavior among officers.

Some of those ideas have been discussed over the past year and received a mixed reception from council members. Council rejected a plan to purchase an early intervention system last fall, after some council members raised concerns that prior efforts to start one had failed.

The mayor’s proposal includes an additional $500,000 for youth programming in the Office of Violence Prevention, and about $106,000 to hire a body-worn-camera analyst in the Department of Civil Rights.

In addition to the public safety funding, the mayor’s proposal includes a “rebuilding” component for many city departments, allowing them to hire workers to fill slots left vacant amid a hiring freeze enacted after the coronavirus pandemic began.

The plan includes $100,000 to update the city’s Climate Action Plan, and $75,000 to implement a social cost of carbon program, which allows officials to place a price tag on carbon emissions and factor that into contracts when deciding which ones to award.

The proposal continues funding for multiple affordable housing programs, and adds $1 million for a partnership with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority that seeks to boost the amount of deeply affordable housing aimed at helping some of the residents with the lowest incomes.

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