Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's proposal to spend $15 million to hire and retain Minneapolis Police Department staff was met with sharp criticism at the council’s budget committee meeting.
The plan was to use the majority of $19 million from a state grant for public safety to bolster sign-on and retention bonuses for the MPD. Council Chair Koski said that the mayor’s plan was too expensive and lacked the information necessary to justify the cost.
“They had six months to speak to us, and they chose to wait until the last second,” Chair Koski said. “I will not be pushed to make rash decisions funded by taxpayer dollars.”
Koski cited studies from the federal Department of Justice saying that increasing incentives and pay does not solve vacancies in police departments. Councilmember Robin Wonsley also took issue with the timing of the proposal.
“I find it concerning that we’re being asked to be tied to a manufactured sense of urgency that only the mayor is driving forward,” Councilmember Wonsley said.
Wonsley said the proposed retention and sign-on bonuses fly in the face of what legislators at the state level wanted the grant to fund. She said that the city did not advocate for more money for police, but rather comprehensive public safety programs. She said a better approach would be to fund more comprehensive programs, such as victim services.
Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw spoke in support of the bonuses, saying, “me personally, I don’t think $18,000 is a lot of money.” That was the proposed retention bonus for MPD officers, in addition to a $15,000 signing bonus. She said she supported a higher number for bonuses, and reminded the council that the MPD has lost 66 officers so far this year.
“I think we deserve the best of the best. The hardest job in this city right now is being a police officer,” Vetaw said.
Vetaw said the lack of respect from the public and members of city council is to blame for depleting staff numbers and rejected Koski’s claims that incentives don’t work, saying that “incentives work, incentives boost morale.” She also said that the city council’s decision to be fiscally responsible is strange because members were prepared to invest up to $30 million in a new Third Police Precinct earlier this month. (Link story)
The final vote on the proposal was seven opposed, five in favor.