With 200 fewer officers available to work than usual, and residents complaining about slow response times, the Minneapolis city council on Friday unanimously approved an additional $6.4m to go towards hiring additional police officers. The move represents significant backtracking for a council which in June voted to eliminate the Police department, though many will be glad as they see it as the councillors finally coming to their senses. The Minneapolis Police Department estimates that, with new recruit classes, it will have 674 officers with another 28 in the hiring process. It currently only has 638 who can work.
The low numbers of officers come after an unprecedented number either quit or went on extended medical leave in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an African American man who was brutally murdered by white police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin has been charged with 2nd Degree Murder and manslaughter, whilst three other officers who were present have been charged with aiding & abetting those crimes after two of them helped Chauvin hold Floyd down, and none of them did anything to prevent Floyd’s death, despite Floyd repeatedly telling them ‘I can’t breathe’.
The incident sparked nationwide outrage, with thousands of Americans taking to the streets to protest police brutality in some of the largest civil rights protests in decades. However, anti-police sentiment increased dramatically, resulting in some cities such as Los Angeles and Minneapolis directing funding away from their police departments and towards other initiatives. In December, $8 million was removed from the police budget of $179 million, though plans to lower the maximum number of police officers allowed from 888 to 750 were scrapped after Mayor Jacob Fray called the plan ‘irresponsible’.
Yet, the refunding of over $6 million to the police may be met with some controversy as activist groups still demand that the police department is defunded. Three council members have proposed completely replacing the Minneapolis Police department with a public safety department, whilst Yes 4 Minneapolis, which is made up of a number of local community groups, has been collecting signatures to try and get a similar idea on the November ballot.
Their proposal would see the creation of a Department of Public Safety, not to be confused with the Committee of Public safety which executed tens of thousands of people during ‘The Terror’ of the French Revolution. Their Department of Public Safety would include ‘licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfil the responsibilities of the department’.
Friday’s decision to increase the police budget will please conservatives, who will see it as a clear and demonstrable example that defunding the police doesn’t work. The Mayor and Police Chief have promised to update the application process to include questions about whether the candidate has lived in Minneapolis, whether they have certain degrees, and whether they volunteer or participate in programs like the Police Activities League, in a step likely to please both sides of the political spectrum.