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Half of Minnesota’s PDs understaffed amid officer shortage and department closures

Minnesota is currently short of more than 1,000 officers across the state

Minneapolis Police Generic

Minneapolis Police Department

By Sarah Roebuck

MINNEAPOLIS — There are 204 police departments in Minnesota that are understaffed, according to the Minnesota Law Enforcement Labor Services.

To provide perspective on that number, Minnesota currently has slightly more than 400 law enforcement departments, according to KARE.

Jim Mortenson, executive director of the LELS, told KARE that he attributes this to a supply and demand issue within the law enforcement profession. He points out that there is a shortage of officers, resulting in these professionals seeking employment with departments that provide the highest salaries and best benefits.

“The days of officers being loyal and dedicated to just a certain department for their whole career has kind of gone to the wayside,” Mortenson told KARE.

Mortenson told KARE that some well-off cities and counties are doing OK when it comes to staffing the departments, but many communities with smaller budgets are struggling to find officers.

In the past two years, four police departments in Minnesota have ceased operations. The police departments in Spring Grove, Morris and Ortonville shut down in 2022, and Wheaton’s police department followed suit earlier this current year.

[RELATED: After entire Minn. PD resigns, sheriff’s office reaches tentative agreement to police city]

Mortenson points out that in each of these instances, the local county sheriff’s department assumed the policing responsibilities. However, he also notes that many sheriff’s offices are facing their own challenges in hiring deputies.

“We’ve also seen a significant decrease in kids coming out of high school and wanting to go into law enforcement as their profession,” Mortenson told KARE.

According to an internal study, enrollment in law enforcement programs in Minnesota dropped 28% from 2014 to 2021, Mortenson said.

Mortenson also noted a lot of middle-aged officers are leaving the profession in the middle of their careers.

“They’re looking at it saying, ‘I don’t need this. I can go and do a different job and about the same amount of money, or more money, and I don’t have to put up with all the negative oversight.’”

Mortenson indicates that Minnesota is currently short of more than 1,000 officers across the state. He said that unless there’s a change in the situation, this deficit could potentially increase in the upcoming years.