Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and local business organizations announced plans Thursday to create a private fund with at least $5 million for new programs aimed at transforming public safety.
In a news conference hours before City Council members are set to push through their own budget amendments, Frey described the fund as an effort to find a pathway for advancing some of their ideas "without cutting police."
The Minneapolis Community Safety Innovation Fund will collect donations from private organizations that could be used to help city leaders fulfill their promise of transforming public safety after George Floyd's death.
Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, said organizations had committed roughly $5 million to the project so far. The funds will be managed by the Minneapolis Foundation, and many of the specifics are still being worked out.
The fund does not require approval from City Council members. Some of it could eventually be handed back to the city, which would require a council signoff if the money surpasses a certain threshold. Some could go to private organizations to aid work undertaken by the city.
Starting Thursday afternoon, City Council members are set to begin voting on amendments to the mayor's 2021 budget proposal, and police and public safety are expected to dominate the discussion. More than 400 people signed up to speak at Wednesday's public hearing on the issue, which stretched into the early hours of Thursday, and revealed deep divisions on how the city should proceed on funding public safety in Minneapolis.
Frey has proposed a roughly $1.5 billion dollar plan that includes about $179 million for the police department, plus additional funding for violence prevention and housing programs.
Three council members — President Lisa Bender and public safety committee leaders Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher — have previewed a plan to cut nearly $8 million from the department and use it to fund violence prevention, mental health crisis teams, and alternative responses to some calls currently handled by police.
Frey said Thursday morning that he believes some of those efforts have merit, but that they require more detailed operational plans before launching and that the city should not further cut its police force to achieve those goals.
He said of the new fund, "What it also allows us to do is to do our homework."
About 40 police officers have left the department since the beginning of the year, and more than 120 were on leave as of early November, according to the latest available department statistics.
Both the mayor's proposal and the council members' proposal would allow the city to hire three additional recruit classes, giving the city a monthly average of 770 working officers. They set out very different trajectories, though, for the force's hiring ability in future years.
Frey seeks to leave the "target level" listed at 888 — the number initially authorized for 2020 — to ease their ability to bring on more officers in the future. The trio of council members hope to reduce the authorized force size to 750 in future years.
Under Minneapolis' financial policies, the city uses the prior year's funding levels as a starting point for each year's new budget negotiations. So, this year's budget negotiations will have implications for future years as well.
The budget amendment process begins at 1:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed here.
This story is developing and will be updated.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994