Minneapolis approves cuts to police budget, not staffing

FILE - In this May 31, 2020 file photo, visitors make silent visits to organic memorial featuring a mural of George Floyd, near the spot where he died while in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minn. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council will decide whether to shrink the city's police department while violent crime is already soaring and redirect funding toward alternatives for reducing violence. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)
FILE - In this May 31, 2020 file photo, visitors make silent visits to organic memorial featuring a mural of George Floyd, near the spot where he died while in police custody, in Minneapolis, Minn. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council will decide whether to shrink the city's police department while violent crime is already soaring and redirect funding toward alternatives for reducing violence. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved a budget early Thursday that will shift about $8 million from the police department toward violence prevention and other programs — but will keep the mayor's targeted staffing levels for sworn officers intact, averting a possible veto.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who had threatened to veto the entire budget if the council went ahead with its plan to cap police staffing, said the vote was a defining moment for the city, which has experienced soaring crime rates amid calls to defund the police since the May 25 death of George Floyd.

“We all share a deep and abiding reverence for the role our local government plays in service of the people of our city," Frey said. "And today, there are good reasons to be optimistic about the future in Minneapolis.”

Spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich said Frey intends to sign the budget.

City Council members had initially approved a proposal to cut the city's authorized police force to 750 officers, down from the current 888, beginning in 2022. But they changed course late Wednesday after the mayor called the move “irresponsible." The council voted 7-6 on Wednesday to keep the cap at 888.

“Tonight the City Council passed a budget that represents a compromise, and also a big step forward into a more compassionate and effective public safety future,” said City Council member Steve Fletcher, co-author of the proposal to lower the cap on staffing. He said the City Council has more work to do and "we cannot afford to remain stuck in the past any longer.”

Supporters call the City Council's plan “Safety for All,” the latest version of the “defund the police” movement that Minneapolis and other cities have considered since Floyd’s death ignited mass demonstrations against police brutality and a nationwide reckoning with racism.

The plan cuts nearly $8 million from Frey’s $179 million policing budget and redirects it to mental health teams, violence prevention programs and other initiatives.