Minneapolis chief will try to make do with fewer officers in 2021

A man wearing a police uniform and a face mask.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo listens to questions during a press conference Aug. 27. Arradondo presented a 2021 budget plan Thursday that eliminates dozens of unfilled positions but also invests in a highly touted program which pairs officers with mental health professionals.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo presented a 2021 budget plan Thursday that eliminates dozens of unfilled positions but also invests in a highly touted program that pairs officers with mental health professionals.

Speaking to the City Council’s budget committee, Arradondo laid out a plan to account for a more than 7 percent cut included in Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed 2021 budget. Frey has said cuts are necessary to make up for lost revenues due to the pandemic and the unrest which followed the police killing of George Floyd in May. 

The chief’s plan doesn’t call for layoffs. But Arradondo said filling in for lost personnel will be difficult.

“Maintaining target staffing levels will be challenging due to significant and unpredictable attrition,” said Arradondo.

According to data from the department, fewer than 750 active sworn officers are currently working. That's about 100 fewer officers than the number available in June. City officials say many officers have taken leave in the months following Floyd’s death and the protests and unrest which followed.  And according to department projections, that number could dip close to 700 next summer.

To accommodate for the smaller ranks, Arradondo said the department will shelve some of its specialized crime fighting units and focus resources on 911 call response and investigations.

Not filling open jobs will save money. But Arradondo said some of those savings will be offset by increased overtime costs.

"As we lose more personnel, that will mean requiring those remaining personnel to take on additional overtime to serve those shifts," said Arradondo.

The MPD budget may be the most closely watched of all city departments. Citizen groups have pressured council members to either completely defund MPD or make deep cuts in the police budget and shift that money to public health-based violence prevention programs, housing and mental health support efforts.

Council members largely support alternatives to sending officers to calls which involve situations police are not well-trained to handle. They have been particularly high on the Co-Responder Program which pairs mental health professionals with officers responding to crisis calls.

Arradondo’s plan includes nearly a half a million dollars in ongoing funding for the program, which had previously been paid for using one-time dollars.

Council member Cam Gordon said he’d like to continue discussion outside the budget committee on how the program can be expanded. 

“I’ve had lots of conversations with residents and others who want to see it work and work better,” said Gordon. “There’s ideas about having the program maybe operate a little differently — in terms of them being able to be a first responder to incidents. There’s also some models folks have looked at having mental health mobile units so there can be a mental health response first and then if backup is necessary there’d be a police response.”

Council members will amend the mayor’s proposed budget before they approve the plan in December. 

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