The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to give police an extra $6.4 million in funding to hire new officers amid a steep increase in violent crime. Dozens of officers quit or went on leave after the George Floyd protests.
The City Council voted on Friday to greenlight the release of funds from a Public Safety Staffing Reserve Fund which was set up last year. Police called on lawmakers to boost their budget, citing a lack of officers to deal with the wave of violent crime, as the number of people suffering gunshots wounds grew 250 percent in the first three weeks of the year compared to last year. The number of rapes increased by 22 percent and robberies surged by 59 percent.
The worrying trends come against the backdrop of an increasingly understaffed force. The Minneapolis Police Department said that around 60 officers left the department last year. Moreover, out of 817 currently employed, only 638 can be deployed to action – 155 officers remain on medical leave, largely due to PTSD, which they claim they experienced following the protests against the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police in May, which spiraled into riots and led to the burning of the police precinct. Some have resigned this year. The exodus coincided with calls to defund the police – one of the rallying cries of the Black Lives Matter protesters – which were backed by several progressive Democratic lawmakers, including US Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Late last year, the head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s crime investigation unit, Charlie Adams, reported that 41 percent of homicide cases are being solved on average, a drop from over 50 percent before the force was hit with staff shortages.
The move by council members – some of whom publicly called for the police to be defunded and disbanded at the height of the George Floyd protests, suggesting they could be replaced with a ‘public safety department’ – comes after they voted unanimously in December to cut $8 million from the police department.
City Council member Steve Fletcher praised the move to slash the budget at the time, calling it “a big step forward into a more compassionate and effective public safety future.”
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