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Minneapolis City Council Takes $8 Million From Police Budget To Put Toward Mental Health Services

The budget is the first one to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council since George Floyd died at the hands of local police in May.

A person holds a sign of George Floyd during a demonstration on August 17, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. | Getty Images
A person holds a sign of George Floyd during a demonstration on August 17, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. | Getty Images

The Minneapolis City Council voted Thursday to move $8 million from the police department budget to other city services, including funding mental health crisis teams. The budget is the first one approved by the council since the death of George Floyd in May, when ex-officer Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Floyd’s death launched a nationwide reckoning about systemic racism and police brutality and an ongoing conversation about police reform and funding. In the early days of national protests, Minneapolis City Council members pledged to dismantle the police department in its current form. Some reform advocates see the newly approved budget as a walkback of that initial pledge — council members also voted to keep the same number of officers on the force, after Mayor Jacob Frey said he was considering a budget veto if they did otherwise.

“While the city is seeking to change its public safety system, it is also experiencing a crime wave that includes more than 500 shootings,” The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. That reality has put some activists and elected officials in a difficult position when negotiating the 2021 budget. Frey proposed $179 million for the total police budget, from which the council cut $8 million. 

Frey has final say on the budget and is likely to approve the council’s changes; after the vote, he said in a statement, "My colleagues were right to leave the targeted [police] staffing level unchanged from 888 and continue moving forward with our shared priorities. The additional funding for new public safety solutions will also allow the City to continue upscaling important mental health, non-police response, and social service components in our emergency response system."

Phillipe Cunningham, a city council member who has been an outspoken advocate of building alternative systems for public safety, tweeted his satisfaction with the reallocation of funds:

According to the Star Tribune, the $8 million cut from the police budget “will fund mental health crisis teams, train dispatchers to assess mental health calls and have other employees handle theft and property damage reports.”

The emphasis on addressing mental health rather than sending officers to respond first to 911 calls has also been a national point of discussion. Last month, New York City officials announced a pilot program in which health professionals and crisis workers will respond to 911 mental health calls instead of the New York Police Department. The program is the first of its kind in the city’s history and will be launched in two “high-need communities” in February 2021, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.