MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Charged with keeping city parklands safe, around 50 Park Police and Patrol Agents respond to thousands of calls for service each year in Minneapolis.

Soon, the small department could get smaller.

Commissioner Londel French says he is prepared to make cuts to Parks and Rec, including to the Park Police Department, if the board doesn’t get the $1.5 million they asked for to support youth services.

“We are going to have a vivid discussion about where we can get the money to fund our programming for our youth,” French said. “It could be from anywhere.”

At Wednesday night’s meeting, a number of people spoke out against the idea of cutting law enforcement.

Commissioner Londel French (credit: CBS)

“It’s a big deal to me that you don’t take something away from us to give us something,” said community activist Al Flowers.

Earlier this month, the park board asked the city for an 8% property tax levy in 2020 — an increase of about $24 for the average homeowner. A portion of that would go towards youth employment services, and ideation centers with a focus on technology and community schools.

“I don’t think that’s a lot to invest in our future,” French said.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey rejected the proposal. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office issued the following statement:

The Mayor’s 2020 budget increases the Park Board budget by millions of dollars, and the Park Board is requesting even more. As to how the money is allocated, that is the Park Board’s decision to make.

The final call on the levy lies with the Board of Estimate and Taxation, who will vote on it later this month.

Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, calls the idea of trimming police a “reactionary threat.” He claims if the idea became reality, eight minority members of the department would be laid off. By contract, park agents must be laid off first before sworn officers.

“Public safety was the number-one concern from residents and park users in recent surveys,” Kroll said. “There would be no time for community-oriented policing if this were to occur. Officers would just rush call to call.”

Mary McGuire

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