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A Minneapolis City Council committee on Thursday recommended releasing an additional $5 million to cover police overtime, a move that would offset some of the cuts they made to police funding last fall.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told council members the money would help cover a small percentage of the overtime shifts needed amid an officer shortage and costs associated with the trial for former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd.
"MPD estimates the full amount of reserve [money] will be needed to meet the overtime demands in 2021," the chief told council members.
Minneapolis' debates about police funding have drawn national attention, as a dramatic increase in violent crime tests the commitment of some council members who pledged to "begin the process of ending" the police department after Floyd's death.
The police department began 2020 with roughly 850 officers available to work and a $193 million budget. Following a flurry of officer retirements, resignations and PTSD claims, the city estimates it will have about 627 officers available to work at the end of this month.
Last year, after the city made across-the-board cuts to account for the pandemic's damage to the economy, Mayor Jacob Frey pitched a roughly $179 million budget for the police department. The City Council moved an additional $8 million to other programs — with a caveat. It also created a new reserve fund that would include $5 million for police overtime, if council approved its release in the future.
On Thursday, the chief asked them to release that money.
Robin McPherson, the department's finance director, told council members they had spent $5.2 million on police overtime so far this year, including $2.9 million that covered wages for Operation Safety Net, the multiagency group that coordinated security for Chauvin's trial. McPherson estimated they will spend $4.3 million more to cover overtime for the rest of the year.
In one of their most cordial public meetings with police officials in recent months, council members asked for more details on when new recruits might start working, how much overtime was going toward investigations versus 911 response and how staffing would be affected by shifting some police reports to civilians.
On Monday, civilian workers in the city's 311 office will begin taking reports for theft and property damage calls that aren't in progress. The city is still asking people to call 911 "if the theft or property damage is occurring at the time of [the] call."
McPherson said it's too early to predict how those changes might impact police but she will continue to adjust her predictions.
Council Member Steve Fletcher thanked the police bureau officials for their presentation.
"The intention in our budget proceedings back in November and December was to create a moment of transparency and to make sure we were getting good updates on staffing," he said. "I feel like we've gotten a good snapshot."
Council Members Cam Gordon, Jeremiah Ellison, Linea Palmisano, Fletcher and Phillipe Cunningham all voted Thursday to recommend releasing the funding. It heads to the full council for consideration next week.
Frey is encouraging them to approve it.
"Relying on overtime and over-scheduled officers is not a sustainable approach to policing and weakens our overall community safety strategies, including those led by our Office of Violence Prevention," Frey said in a statement. "However, given the deep levels of attritions the department has experienced, this funding will be essential to continue meeting core public safety needs as we work to expand recruitment efforts and bolster investigative and patrol capacity with outside support."
Frey is also separately asking the council to approve a plan to use roughly $4.9 million the city received in American Rescue Plan funding for police, and roughly $4 million for violence prevention.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994