City council members in Minneapolis appear to be backpedaling after slashing some $8 million from the city’s police budget, claiming that ‘Defund the Police’ was never their ‘framework.’
In June, Minneapolis city council members Steve Fletcher and Phillipe Cunningham appeared with seven colleagues on a stage bearing a huge sign reading ‘Defund Police’ during a protest in Powderhorn Park.
Now, the duo seem to be mincing words, with Fletcher telling KSTP-TV on Tuesday: ”Defund’ is not the framework the council has ever chosen,’ as Cunningham audibly agreed.
‘If we’re going to look at how we fund different programs, it would be very hard to do that without taking that money from the Minneapolis Police Department,’ he continued.
Minneapolis city council members Steve Fletcher (left) and Phillipe Cunningham (right) said in an interview on Tuesday that ”Defund’ is not the framework the council has ever chosen’
In June, they could be seen standing on a stage reading ‘defund police’. The focus of the meeting was the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department
Minneapolis was the epicenter of nationwide protests following the in-custody death of George Floyd on May 25, and city leaders there led the charge to defund their police departments.
Fletcher and Cunningham had originally called for much deeper cuts to the department budget, including eliminating 183 police officers from the department.
Mayor Jacob Frey, who had initially supported the call to slash police funding, balked at the proposal as violent crime soared in the city, and threatened to veto any proposal that saw a reduction in the number of sworn officers.
Compared to last year, murders are up 90 percent so far this in Minneapolis, according to MPD data.
Last month, the Minneapolis City Council narrowly approved a $500,000 plan to bring in outside cops to help fill an emergency staffing shortfall as officers quit at record rates. Fletcher and Cunningham both voted against that proposal.
On Tuesday, Fletcher and Cunningham touted their ‘new system of public safety’ that will see a number of changes after their proposal to cut police funding passed.
Non-police staff will now respond to complaints about parking, property damage and homelessness, and funds diverted from police will pay for dedicated mental health crisis teams that will respond to non-threatening 911 calls — without police on scene.
Fletcher (above) and Cunningham touted their ‘new system of public safety’ that will see a number of changes after their proposal to cut police funding passed
‘Folks are going to have to see really with their own eyes this works. Ultimately, all that everybody wants to have a safer community,’ Cunningham said
‘We expect by late spring, we’ll be doing mental health response to 911 calls with that program,’ Fletcher said.
‘I think the goal is to transform public safety and I think it remains to be seen whether this department is going to come along with us on that,’ Fletcher said.
‘We have not seen an acknowledgment of a problem from the rank and file force and I do have concerns about whether they’re going to block the culture change that the mayor and chief are calling for,’ he continued.
The Police Officer’s Federation of Minneapolis, the union which represents the city’s cops, blasted those remarks in a statement to the ABC affiliate.
‘Councilmember Fletcher’s inflammatory rhetoric placing blame and the impediment to change at the feet of Rank-and-File Officers to impeding change is completely short sighted and irresponsible,’ the union said in a statement.
‘Despite this damaging rhetoric, the rank-and-file Officers continue to honorably serve the citizens of this great City of Minneapolis.’
‘I believe that it’s about producing results,’ Cunningham said. ‘Folks are going to have to see really with their own eyes this works. Ultimately, all that everybody wants to have a safer community.’
Protesters react as they set fire to the entrance of a police station in Minneapolis on May 28
Sandra King, 70, waits for her granddaughter near the remains of a burned-out AutoZone across from the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct on May 28
Meanwhile, the city has been plagued by soaring violent crime since then – with homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and arson all up on last year’s figures.
Police have recorded 532 gunshot victims this year as of last Thursday, more than double the same period a year ago.
Carjackings have also spiked to 375 so far this year, up 331 percent from the same period last year. And violent crimes have topped 5,100, compared with just over 4,000 for the same period in 2019.
Around 160 officers are said to have resigned or be on leave from the force compared to the start of the year.
That is partly due to officers claiming post-traumatic stress disorder from a summer of unrest — with more preparing to leave amid retirements and poor morale, reports say.
It has prompted developers to reconsider investments in the city, particularly after dozens of businesses there were destroyed in riots over the summer.
‘I don’t know why anybody would seriously consider investing in the city,’ local developer Kelly Doran told the Washington Examiner.
Doran said he estimates that apartment buildings downtown are running at around 10 to 20 percent vacancy, compared to a normal vacancy rate of around 2 to 3 percent.