Minneapolis, MN – Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has backed out of his proposal to add 14 new positions to the grossly-understaffed Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
The move also reduced next year’s initially-proposed police budget by $163,000, the Star Tribune reported.
When the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved Frey’s budget change on Friday, he declared that the moment was “among his proudest days as mayor,” according to the paper.
Instead of adding 14 officer positions, the city said it will focus on training and hiring a class of cadets in order to try to fill existing vacant positions in the 888-man department.
Thirty-eight recruits are expected to attend the class, but it is unknown how many will actually graduate from the program and join MPD, Frey’s office told the Star Tribune.
The mayor said he will order the police chief to assign 14 of the new recruits to the divisions where Frey initially planned to create the 14 new positions – the same positions he just axed from the budget – thereby requiring the department to stretch its understaffed agency even further.
City leaders also pulled back hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been earmarked for MPD, and opted to funnel it into crime prevention programs instead.
City Council President Lisa Bender said that the plan “is a more clear and transparent way of investing in our Police Department where the need lies,” the Star Tribune reported.
Bender noted that she was disappointed that bumping up funding for the violence prevention initiatives wasn’t the mayor’s focus from the beginning.
She and two other city council members also unsuccessfully attempted to pull even more money and manpower from MPD by decreasing the recruitment class size, according to the Star Tribune.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo had asked the city to put 400 more officers on the streets over the next several years to make up for the shortage, but Frey argued that the city’s budget wouldn’t allow for such an increase, CNN previously reported.
Over the past year, there weren’t enough police officers on duty for police to immediately send officers to respond to 6,776 “priority one” emergencies, FOX News reported in September.
A priority one call is assigned for “an imminent threat to personal safety, or the loss or damage to property exists," including shots fired, stabbings, and sexual assaults, FOX News reported.
Minneapolis police were also unable to respond to seven “priority zero” calls, including one for a baby that had stopped breathing and another for an officer in trouble.
FOX News reported that the Minneapolis Police Department’s website said priority zero calls were for “those situations where a known crisis exists that threatens the life of an individual. This is the highest possible priority and the fastest possible response is desired. The MECC objective is to have squads en route to the call within 30 seconds of receipt by the dispatcher.”
“To have to look someone in the eye and tell them that we were unable to get there because we do not have enough resources – it’s unacceptable,” Minnesota Police Chiefs Association President Andy Skoogman told FOX News.
The city council will vote to adopt a final budget on Wednesday, according to the Star Tribune.
Despite the alleged budget shortfall, Minneapolis city leaders unanimously voted to dump over $772,000 into a moving sculpture for the new Public Service Building in October.
The sculpture itself came with a $394,517 price tag, plus another $377,590 for electrical, ceiling and programmable lighting components associated with the artwork.
The city has also dumped another $85,000 into an initial prototype of the moving sculpture, KMSP reported.
The completed project will change shape in accordance with outside weather conditions, and is planned to be the centerpiece of the building’s two-story atrium.
“We wanted a piece that would capture people’s attention when they came into the building," City Arts Administrator Mary Altman told the news outlet. "We wanted a piece that would be interesting and exciting. We also wanted a piece that would be interesting to people who come to the building over and over again."
The motorized sculpture, which will be suspended from the ceiling, is intended to mimic “a rippling lake or a flock of birds,” city staff members told KMSP.
But many downtown business owners, professional sports teams, and residents said they would rather those funds be spent on increasing the presence of law enforcement officers in the area.
Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association Chairman Joe Tamburino said he was stunned to learn that the sculpture, which he described as a “big fish net,” was going to come with such a hefty price tag, KMSP reported.
Tamburino argued that funneling funds into such a project is evidence that the city’s priorities are out of alignment.
"I’m sure you could find an enterprising young person who will give you a beautiful painting or sculpture or statue," he told KMSP. "To give this to an operation out of Atlanta that’s going to cost over $700,000 and be moving all the time so we can see the [weather] changes in the city? Unnecessary!”
“You want to see the changes in the city? Look outside,” he suggested.