MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With a battle over the Minneapolis police budget looming, top city leaders made their position clear Monday: Don’t take away our officers.

Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo were responding to a city council proposal that calls for staffing and financial cuts to the department.

Frey’s recommended 2021 budget proposes cuts to MPD as well, but three council members put forward a plan this weekend that cuts roughly $8 million more.

President Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher authored the proposal. They say some of that money should go toward unarmed response teams for non-emergencies and mental health crises.

Frey said Monday he’s in agreement about the need for alternate responses. The two sides also both call for 770 sworn officers next year. The difference is that the council members ultimately want to get that down to 750, while Frey and Arradondo want to bring it up to 888 in future years.

“It could be reckless and, quite frankly, dangerous if we start to make decisions of reducing the personnel that are needed,” Arradondo said.

Frey and Arradondo say it’s hasty to decide on staffing levels without the results of an outside study currently being done and without community input.

Anna Schmitz, the community manager for the Fair State Co-op Brewery, says she and her staff have worked extensively with Fletcher and other council members on the proposal. An open letter to the city’s leaders supporting full-time mental health responders has been signed by more than 100 small businesses.

“There has been a lot of engagement over the past few months and now we’re really at a time when it’s time to act,” Schmitz said.

Navigating through the differing opinions is the chair of the city’s budget committee, Council Member Linea Palmisano. She wants a compromise by finding a way to fund public safety innovation without dramatically altering police staffing.

“There’s a lot of interest in building new safety nets, but maybe we shouldn’t take away the old one until the new ones are fully in place,” Palmisano said.

Complicating the issue is how undermanned the department is right now. Since the beginning of the year, Arradondo says they’re down 120 officers. In an average year, MPD loses about 45 officers.

David Schuman