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Minneapolis push to defund police backfires after residents complain of slow response times, increase in crime

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Minneapolis on Friday backtracked on its original push to defund the city’s police department in the wake of George Floyd’s police custody death after residents begged the city to hire more officers, citing longer response times and increased violent crime.

The City Council on Friday voted unanimously to approve $6.4 million in additional funding that police had requested.

FILE: Demonstrators are taken into custody after curfew in Minneapolis, as protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. 

FILE: Demonstrators are taken into custody after curfew in Minneapolis, as protests continued following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. 
(AP)

The department says it only has 638 officers available to work — roughly 200 fewer than usual. An unprecedented number of officers quit or went on extended medical leave after Floyd’s death and the unrest that followed.

With new recruit classes, the city anticipates it will have 674 officers available at the end of the year, with another 28 in the hiring process, the Star Tribune reported.

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Days before the City Council vote, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo promised to update the application process for police recruits to include questions about whether they have lived in Minneapolis, have degrees in criminology, social work, psychology or counseling, and whether they volunteer or participate in programs such as the Police Activities League.

Meanwhile, three City Council members have proposed replacing the police department with a public safety department that would include law enforcement and other services. Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local community groups, is also collecting signatures to try to get a similar proposal on the November ballot.

The Star Tribune reported the Yes 4 Minneapolis committee is being fueled by a half-million dollar grant from the Washington, D.C.-based group Open Society Policy Center, linked to billionaire George Soros.

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The petition would remove police department language from the city’s charter and create a public health-focused Department of Public Safety, “including licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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