Despite some Council members and activist groups advocating to defund the police department following George Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis City Council on Friday voted unanimously to approve $6.4 million in additional funding that police had requested, Fox News reported.
The unanimous vote comes after residents begged the city to hire more officers, citing longer response times and increased violent crime.
According to the Minneapolis Police Department, there are only 638 officers available to work, which is roughly 200 fewer than usual. An unprecedented number of officers quit or went on extended medical leave after Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed, which included the burning of a police precinct.
With new recruit classes, the city anticipates it will have 674 officers available at the end of the year, with another 28 in the hiring process, the Star Tribune reported.
Days before the City Council vote, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced that they were making changes to the hiring process for police recruits. The updated application process would include questions about whether they have lived in Minneapolis, have degrees in criminology, social work, psychology or counseling, and whether they volunteer or participate in programs such as the Police Activities League.
Meanwhile, three City Council members have proposed replacing the police department with a public safety department that would include law enforcement and other services. It would also remove the mayor’s “complete power” over city police operations, according to The Star Tribune.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a well-funded coalition of local community groups, is also collecting signatures to try to get a similar proposal on the November ballot.
The Yes 4 Minneapolis committee is being fueled by a half-million dollar grant from the Washington, D.C.-based group Open Society Policy Center, the lobbying arm of the Open Society Foundations, a group founded by billionaire George Soros, The Star Tribune reported
The committee which hopes to collect 20,000 signatures by March 31 would remove police department language from the city’s charter and create a public health-focused Department of Public Safety, “including licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” the local news outlet reported.