Members of the Minneapolis City Council who tried unsuccessfully to dismantle the police department in response to George floydThe city’s death is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to scale it down, a move that could put the city’s entire budget at risk because the mayor threatens to use his veto to protect public safety amid a backdrop of rising crime rate.
The plan, which supporters call “safety for all,” is the latest version of the “defund the police” movement that Minneapolis and other US cities have been considering since Floyd’s May 25 death in police custody sparked off. a mass demonstrations against police brutality and national awareness of racism.
Eleven of the 13 board members have already voted in favor of larger parts of the plan, indicating adoption is likely. It would cut Mayor Jacob Frey’s $ 179 million budget for policing by nearly $ 8 million and redirect it to mental health teams, violence prevention programs and other initiatives.
“I am actively considering a veto because of the massive and permanent reduction in the capacity of the officers,” Frey said in a statement Monday evening. Reducing the authorized strength of 138 officers before adopting alternatives is “irresponsible”, he said.
Cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, New York and Portland, Oregon, are shifting funds from law enforcement to social service programs in an effort to provide new solutions to problems traditionally dealt with by police. These cuts have led some departments to lay off agents, cancel recruiting courses or withdraw from recruiting targets.
In Minneapolis, violent crime rates have increased since the death of Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed and argued for air for several minutes. Derek chauvin, a former white officer, pressed his knee to his neck. Chauvin and three others have been charged with Floyd’s death and are due to stand trial in March.
“This summer happened because George Floyd was assassinated by the Minneapolis Police Department and it was no accident; it is because the police system we know today is not only racist, but it does not create security for all, ”said Oluchi Omeoga, co-founder of the Black Visions collective, which supports“ security for all ” as a step towards more transformation change.
Due to the austerity imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the police department is already facing a reduction of $ 14 million from its original 2020 budget.
Mayor Frey aims to keep the number of sworn-in officers around 770 until 2021 with the hope of eventually increasing the number to its current authorized ceiling of 888. “Safety for all” would cap the number. to 750 by 2022. The department is already down by around 120 police officers – in part due to members of the police force who claimed their post-traumatic stress disorder following a summer of unrest – and others are preparing to leave due to retirements and low morale.
Passions were burning on both sides as more than 400 citizens registered to speak at a marathon hearing last week that took place in the wee hours of Thursday, with many expressing alarm that the council was even considering reductions.
“I think we need to make bold decisions on the way forward,” said Steve Fletcher, board member, co-author of the proposal. While acknowledging it would mean fewer officers, he defended the plan saying it would reduce the ministry’s workload by shifting 911 calls from armed officers to other specialists such as mental health professionals. .
On the other side, there are those like Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who say that neither of them need to be made and that it is possible to reform the police without reducing officers. The mayor and 12 of the 13 council members are Democrats, while one council member is from the Green Party.
If the board approves the plan on Wednesday, Frey would have five days to veto if he so chooses. The board could win with a two-thirds majority, or nine board members, but it is not clear if those nine votes exist. The proposal to cap the number of officers was adopted with only 7 of the 13 votes in committee on Monday.
A proposal over the summer to dismantle the department and replace it with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” initially received support from a majority of the council, but failed when a separate municipal commission voted against its registration in the November ballot. The city was paying $ 4,500 a day at one point for the private security of three council members who said they received threats after supporting the delay in funding.