City Council & Mayor Frey Agree to Public Safety Budget Changes

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Steve.Fletcher@MinneapolisMN.gov

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City Council & Mayor Frey Agree to Public Safety Amendments to Mayor's Proposed 2020 Budget

Council Member Fletcher speaks at press conference on Friday, December 6, 2019

On Friday, the City Council debated and unanimously passed a series of amendments to Mayor Frey’s Recommended 2020 budget. These amendments represent weeks of challenging, productive, and collaborative work between the Council and Mayor. It resulted in an agreement that honors Mayor Frey’s proposed investment in the police force while improving the way we budget for MPD staffing to be more predictable and transparent in the future, and that renews and expands our investments in violence prevention.

The Mayor had proposed adding 14 officers to the police department. However, as I have noted to many of you over the last few months, no matter how we voted on that proposal, no additional officers above our current authorized force of 888 would have been in the field next year, due both to the length of our training timeline and the fact that MPD is projected to be behind the staffing curve; MPD is currently projecting we’ll be about 50 officers below our current 888 in June of 2020. If we voted for 14 new officers, MPD planned to use that extra money to fund a bigger recruit class. 

Every time a constituent called me to ask me to support the Mayor’s 14 new officers because we need them on the street this summer, it reminded me that we had work to do to align the public conversation about our budget with the way the Department would actually spend the money we allocate. This isn’t the fault of Mayor Frey or Chief Arradondo - MPD’s staffing curve has been a curious puzzle for outsiders to unravel through many Chiefs and many Mayors. I wrote an op-ed several months ago in the Star Tribune outlining the problem, and started talking with my colleagues and the Mayor’s office about solving it. Mayor Frey and my colleagues listened, and together, we found a way to improve the Mayor’s proposal. 

Instead of adding 14 new positions, Mayor Frey offered an amendment to keep our authorized sworn force at 888 and instead take the $2.4 million proposed for those new positions and put it towards a new, ongoing training investment. Next year, the department will add an additional academy class to get caught up, which, to be clear, is exactly what MPD would have done in 2020 if we had approved Mayor Frey’s original proposal. It is neither an increase nor a cut to the Mayor’s budget proposal for sworn staffing. By budgeting this way, we’re hoping that residents understand more clearly how their investment is being spent, and we’re taking a step toward ensuring that in future years the department will be able to keep a more stable number of officers in the field.

I have also heard from constituents calling for more emphasis on community-based violence prevention. I agree, and I’m committed to getting upstream to address the root causes of crime, and work to prevent the circumstances of poverty, addiction, mental health crises, and desperation that result in crimes in the first place. Council Member Cunningham and I worked with Mayor Frey and our colleagues on the Council to make critical investments of nearly $500,000 in violence prevention. As evidence of their support for these efforts, Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo collaborated to contribute $242,000 of that from non-critical items in the MPD budget. 

I offered an amendment with Council Vice President Jenkins to restore $142,000 to the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), $105,000 of which is ongoing funding. Council Member Cunningham added $150,000 to the Group Violence Intervention program and partnered with Council President Bender to allocate $50,000 towards a new Intimate Partner Violence Prevention initiative.  Council Member Warsame added additional funds to OVP and the Youth Coordinating Board (YCB) for targeted neighborhood work. The Mayor and the Council working together, unanimously, to invest in the Office of Violence Prevention, and in a holistic range of violence prevention strategies sends an undeniable signal that we consider violence prevention central to the values, vision, and work of Minneapolis.   

Council Member Goodman and I wrote a separate amendment allocating $267,000 to the Downtown Improvement District for collaborative public safety strategies, including a Late Night Ambassadors program next summer, and funding for groups like Mad Dads and YouthLink for outreach and de-escalation. Knowing that MPD will be on the low end of the staffing curve heading into the summer, it is critical that we invest in violence prevention initiatives -- in downtown and across the city -- to help shoulder the load of public safety work and let the police department focus on what they are able to do best. 

Finally, Council Members Ellison, Johnson, and Schroeder offered an amendment to fund one of the recommendations of this year’s 911/MPD Workgroup, continue that workgroup in 2020, and fund an outside evaluation of the police department’s budget and staffing to make sure we are running it efficiently.  Building on the budgeting improvements we made this year, I believe these efforts will provide much-needed transparency and data to inform future decisions, and help us respond to every emergency call with the right resource funded at the right level to meet our public safety goals.   

I’m proud of the role I played in these negotiations, and of the result, and I’m grateful to my colleagues - especially Mayor Frey and Council Members Cunningham and Goodman for their willingness to debate, listen, compromise, and work to bring the best ideas we all brought to the table into the budget. I hope people are reassured by both the outcome and the process that the entire city is prioritizing public safety, and doing the hard work of collaborating and compromising for the good of Minneapolis.

There’s more work ahead, and there are more good ideas that didn’t make it into this year’s budget, or that aren’t yet sufficiently developed for investment this year. I’ll continue prioritizing public safety, and collaborating with anyone and everyone who has ideas to offer.  We have one more public hearing on the amended budget before we take our final vote, this Wednesday, December 11 at 6:05 P.M. If you have feedback on these amendments, or ideas you’re still hoping to get in this year’s budget, I encourage you to bring them forward there. If you want to be part of the ongoing work of improving our city’s approach to public safety, I’m happy to have your energy and ideas as we continue the momentum of this season’s work into 2020.

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