Over a third of Minneapolis’ general fund went to law enforcement this year, making the city one of the country’s top spenders on police.
A report released this month by the national advocacy group Center for Popular Democracy reviewed the general funds of 10 U.S. cities and two counties. The report found most sent between 20 and 40 percent of their general funds to police. Minneapolis ranked third highest by percentage in law enforcement spending, giving 35.8 percent of its general fund – or 11.2 percent of the entire city budget – to police.
Kumar Rao, senior staff attorney at CPD, said the center started the study after several cities raised concerns regarding unclear spending in their general funds.
Jennifer Epps-Addison, CPD’s co-executive director, said the center found the police spending fit expectations, but some were surprised by low investments in community programs.
In-demand programs like adult workforce development, youth training, affordable housing development and youth violence prevention each got less than one tenth the funding law enforcement received.
A closer look at the use of these police funds shows the department’s response to these kinds of allegations.
In the past four years, the department funneled money to programs like employee background checks, community service officers and information management, while cutting the funds allotted to administration.
Money for services like background checks and CSOs has steadily increased since 2015 — from $512,761 in 2015 to $4.17 million by 2017.
On the other hand, patrol services take up nearly 60 percent of the funding in 2017.
By promoting police presence rather than programs to revitalize neighborhoods in distress, Epps-Addison said the cities’ budget priorities are distinct from the community’s.
“This study shows an extreme investment, but in criminalizing and oppressing [these communities], not providing them with opportunities,” she said.
But Ward 11 Council Member John Quincy said drastic decreases in patrol services would be irresponsible and may not necessarily appease all citizens.
“We have a charter responsibility of having a police department, and my community, they would like to see more patrol officers,” he said. “Some would say that it’s over policed… and that’s causing more crime, [that’s] not the case, they’re responding to calls and inquiries, they’re responding to gunshots.”
The total amount of money allocated directly to police comes to $163.2 million, not including the allocations to the district attorney, city courts and probation and parole services, institutions which also discipline, she said.
If investments in law enforcement shift to support public infrastructure and in-demand services like mental health resources, transit upkeep and youth development, public safety would show improvement, said Justin Terrell, a member of Take Action Minnesota who worked on the report.
“There’s a misconception that law enforcement and safety are the same thing,” Terrell said.
Quincy said the changes in the last years’ budgets reflect an increased desire for public safety services that don’t hinge on police presence, like crime prevention specialists and community involvement.
“We don’t need an army of cops, let’s think about what public safety really means, rather than what law enforcement is,” he said. “That’s the approach the city’s making because we all recognize we need it.”
Epps-Addison said while CPD hopes the report encourages cities to reinvest in the future, it hesitates to name an “ideal” dollar amount for police enforcement.
“What I can say is it shouldn’t be 50 or 70 or 80 times what we’re spending on housing, or transportation or youth development,” she said.
Ward 3 Council Member and Mayoral Candidate Jacob Frey said in coming years, the city will need to add affordable housing funding.
Minneapolis spent nearly $14.3 million on affordable housing in 2017.
“We’re losing the subsidy from the state and federal government,” Frey said. “Without a doubt, Minneapolis will need to step up to the plate.”
The Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment.