R.T. Rybak's budget would cut five crime specialists

Mayor R.T. Rybak's proposed $4.4 million reduction in growth to the police department is stirring up some concerns in southwest Minneapolis.

Community members are upset that the proposed budget would cut five of the department's 17 crime prevention specialists. These are the officers who supplement the beat cops by working with residents, businesses, and neighborhood organizations to prevent crimes before they happen.

"I think it would be a disaster from a public safety standpoint," says Mark Hinds, executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.

Since 2010, the police department has made 22 layoffs, according to city data, but 14 have been hired back. Of those rehires, 13 are contingent on grant money that expires next year.

Rybak's 2012 budget proposal would cut a total of 24 positions in the Minneapolis police department, says mayor spokesman John Stiles. In addition to the prevention specialists, that breaks down to two civilian and 17 sworn positions.

If all goes according to plan, the civilian and sworn cuts will be achieved through attrition, meaning the crime specialists will be the only layoffs, says Stiles. City Councilmembers have expressed concern over the crime specialist cuts, says Stiles, and there has been talk of saving at least one of the positions.

At this point, that's only talk.

"The mayor likes the program, believe me," says Stiles. "We know the council likes the program, too. There are Councilmembers who have said, 'We need to look at this.' We haven't heard anything concrete yet."

The City Council will vote on the finalized budget in December. In the meantime, Hinds in particular has reason to be concerned. If the budget does go through as planned, the precinct that covers his neighborhood would lose two of the crime specialists.

"I think that cutting them is going to make the city less safe," he says.

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