Minneapolis ends disastrous ‘Defund the Police’ experiment – what has it cost?

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in May 2020, Minneapolis became a center for the movement to ‘defund the police.’ Last week, Fox 9 reports:

Minneapolis City Council mostly went along with Mayor Jacob Frey’s $192 million police budget, while St. Paul City Council added a modest amount to Mayor Melvin Carter’s initial proposal. Both reflect increases from the prior year.

The Minneapolis budget reflects a “sustained commitment to public safety,” Frey’s spokeswoman said Friday. Frey said it will fund five police recruit classes, starting a long rebuilding process after the city lost nearly 300 officers over the past two years.

The Star Tribune reported that the budget:

…includes just over $191 million for the Police Department (MPD), restoring its funding to nearly the level it held before George Floyd was killed in 2020.

This comes towards the end of a year that has been one of the bloodiest and most violent in the city’s history. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Minneapolis registered its 92nd homicide of 2021, leaving it just five short of the grim record of 95 suffered in 1995.

Sadly, all of this was predictable. In June 2020, I wrote that research suggested that Minneapolis was in for a rise in violence. A 2019 paper which provided “the first empirical examination of the impact of federal and state “Pattern-or-Practice” investigations on crime and policing” found that:

For investigations that were not preceded by “viral” incidents of deadly force, investigations, on average, led to a statistically significant reduction in homicides and total crime.

And the bad news for Minneapolis:

In stark contrast, all investigations that were preceded by “viral” incidents of deadly force have led to a large and statistically significant increase in homicides and total crime. We estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies.


The leading hypothesis for why these investigations increase homicides and total crime is an abrupt change in the quantity of policing activity. In Chicago, the number of police-civilian interactions decreased by almost 90% in the month after the investigation was announced. In Riverside CA, interactions decreased 54%. In St. Louis, self-initiated police activities declined by 46%. Other theories we test such as changes in community trust or the aggressiveness of consent decrees associated with investigations — all contradict the data in important ways.

And that, indeed, is exactly what happened in Minneapolis. As an investigation by Reuters found, less policing in Minneapolis had led to more crime in the city, especially violent crime. Being predictable, some, at least, of this violence was avoidable.

The evidence that cops reduce crime and violence and that reducing the quantity of policing would lead to more crime and violence was always there. It was ignored for ideological reasons. Those who did so have, in some cases, been held accountable at the ballot box. For the victims of this social experiment, the cost has been far higher.