UPDATED 7:35 PM PT – Thursday, December 17, 2020
Two Minneapolis City Council members have flip-flopped on their stance to ‘defund the police.’
Earlier this year, city council members Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher joined seven of their colleagues at a rally, which pledged to dismantle and defund the city’s police department.
“All that money has been going into the police department and what have we gotten in return?” Cunningham questioned at the rally. “Pain, trauma and hurt.”
“The vision for defunding means we intend to end the Minneapolis Police Department as we know it,” Fletcher said in a June interview.
Months later, the two council members deny the movement was ever about “defunding the police.”
“So, I think it’s worth saying,” Steve Fletcher claimed. “That ‘defund’ is not the framework that the council has ever chosen.”
“I think it’s important to name,” Cunningham added. “That ‘dismantle’ does not mean ‘dismantle into nothing.’”
These comments came after the council voted on the city’s 2021 budget. They voted to slash $8 million from the Minneapolis Police Department.
“We weren’t trying to maximize how much money came out of the department, that wasn’t the goal,” Fletcher stated in an interview. “If we’re going to look at how to fund other programs, it would be very hard to do that without taking that money from the Minneapolis Police Department.”
While the city’s mayor has advocated for police reform, he disagrees with the $8 million cut.
“If the goal of the budget cut is to simply dramatically reduce the number of police officers in the department,” Mayor Jacob Frey said. “I cannot sign on to that.”
The Minneapolis Chief of Police also opposed the drastic cut.
“I am deeply concerned with any further reductions to the MPD budget that impacts our current or future staffing that is not based on clearly defined data,” Chief Medaria Arradonda said. “Or has not been properly communicated to our city’s residents and business owners.”
Meanwhile, violent crimes are on the rise in the city of Minneapolis. According to data, more than 5,200 violent crimes have been reported this year, which is 1,000 more than the amount in 2019.
Furthermore, 78 people have been murdered in 2020 compared to 45 in 2019.
In the meantime, Fletcher and Cunningham said the funds taken away from the police department will go toward implementing different programs. The new programs will include non-police staff and mental health crisis teams responding to non-threatening calls.