Hiring more officers among priorities in Minneapolis chief’s budget
Since the start of 2020, the department has lost nearly 300 police officers
By Libor Jany
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo revealed his spending priorities for the department's proposed $192 million budget for next year, which include hiring more police officers to replace the nearly 300 that have left the force since last year.
Arradondo's budget plan would also hire a wellness director, replace aging dashboard cameras in police squads, and civilianize certain positions being held by sworn officers.
Since the start of 2020, the department has lost 296 officers to retirement, resignation or long-term medical leave — creating significant staffing shortages, officials said.
Pointing to significant increases in the number of shootings and carjackings, Arradondo told council members it's "not acceptable to have any more reductions right now in our staffing." Black residents are being disproportionately victimized by the rise in violent crime, he said.
Budgetary concerns have led to the elimination of certain units and the reorganization of others, Arradondo said, with the greatest impact was felt in the Patrol Bureau, which has seen its numbers dwindle to 307 sworn officers available to respond to 911 calls — a number that Arradondo said was the lowest of his more than 30 years with the department.
Department officials also pointed out that officers worked more than twice as many overtime hours so far in 2021 than they did the previous year. More than half of the overtime expenses are the result of staffing shortages, department officials said.
The city's upcoming elections have gained national attention as the country watches to see whether — and how — Minneapolis will fulfill a promise to transform public safety. For months, Frey and some members of the Council have been locked in a divisive debate about whether the money for building violence prevention and mental health programs should come from the MPD's budget or other sources.
Arradondo's presentation, which came during a virtual meeting of the budget committee, provided a more detailed explanation of his plans for the $192 million in police spending earmarked in Mayor Jacob Frey's proposed 2022 budget. The money, part of a $1.6 billion spending plan, would restore MPD funding nearly to the level it was before the murder of George Floyd in police custody.
The chief's budget asks come as the department faces an uncertain future. Next month, city voters will get a chance to weigh in on Question 2, a charter amendment that would remove a minimum police staffing requirement, paving the way for a new "public health-oriented" agency that could move responsibilities such as mental-health interventions and traffic enforcement from armed officers to unarmed civil service groups. While details about how the new agency would operate are still being worked out, its proponents say they imagine it would still maintain an unspecific number of armed "peace officers" to respond to violent crimes.
On Monday, the response from the Council was more muted than it has been at past hearings, but the issue is likely to surface again as the budget debate heats up.
Councilmembers will spend the next few weeks hashing out a final budget plan, which they will vote on in December well after the election.
The MPD began 2020 with a budget of about $193 million, an amount that was later reduced amid the coronavirus pandemic and a national debate on policing after Floyd's killing. They settled on a $164 million police budget for this year, with an additional $11 million in reserves available with the Council's approval and American Rescue Plan funding — about $180 million in total.
Outgoing Council President Lisa Bender said during Monday's presentation the reserve fund was created as a way to bring transparency and "try to create more oversight over the budget."
"I'm not sure it worked that way all," she said.
MPD finance director Robin McPherson ssaid that in 2021, the department budgeted for 140 new hires to fill vacancies, as well as the hiring of 28 community service officers (CSO) — with the help of federal pandemic relief funding. Under the proposed budget plan, the department would see a "significant increase" in hiring in 2022, with funding for 160 new police cadets and recruits, and 50-53 CSOs, she said.
She added that the department is also planning in the next two months to start hiring officers from other departments, known as lateral hires.
Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.
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