Minneapolis police looking for reinforcements to help with officer shortage, 911 response

Police cars and traffic in front of a city skyline.
Traffic backs up behind police as protesters shut down Interstate 94 in Minneapolis on Nov. 4.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

With nearly 500 people wounded by gunfire so far this year, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is trying to secure help from other law enforcement agencies.

“Our resources are hemorrhaging,” Arradondo told members of the Minneapolis City Council during a committee meeting Tuesday. “Our city is bleeding at this moment. I'm trying to do all I can to stop that bleeding and I'm hoping that having the funds to launch a citywide joint enforcement team initiative we can try to stop the bleeding in our city."

Arradondo asked council members for permission to negotiate a $496,800 contract with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Metro Transit Police Department for reinforcements. It could mean an extra 20 to 40 law enforcement officers to respond to 911 calls.

Mayor Jacob Frey forwarded the proposal to the council for approval. He said the department is facing a significant staffing shortage.

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“On an annual basis we see somewhere in the range of 40 to 45 officers retire or resign,” he said. “Now, those numbers are well beyond 100. And it does have an impact.”

City officials say more than 100 officers are on leave. According to the Police Department’s budget director, those officers are still getting paid.

Minneapolis is seeing a significant spike in gun violence.  So far this year, 491 people have been wounded by gunfire. That number includes at least 58 people who’ve been shot to death.

The city’s gunshot tally is more than double the amount at this time last year. And is the highest it’s ever been going back to 2008, which is the earliest year available.

Minneapolis is also experiencing a large increase in homicides. So far this year, 75 people have been killed in the city. That’s double the amount of homicides compared to the same time last year.

Council members who opposed the measure said they want to increase public safety, but want more transparency from the department about how they are using public dollars to fight crime. And they say the chief has not provided the information they've asked for.

Council member Steve Fletcher asked the chief why he couldn't find that money from his department's multimillion-dollar budget.

"I would really like a better answer about where the $185 million has gone,” he said. “Because it just seems like it didn't go into producing the outcomes that we would have expected. I'm having a hard time seeing how you can't find it within your department."

In his response, Arradondo was uncharacteristically pointed.

“Council member Fletcher, if you have a suggestion of how to do it better, please let me know,” said the normally collegial Arrandondo. “If you choose to say no to these victims of crime, then please stand by that. I’m saying we need more resources today and right now.”

Arradondo’s retort sparked heated replies from several council members, who chastised the chief for implying that if they didn’t vote for the measure that they were unconcerned about crime.

“Everybody here has a deep concern about public safety,” said Council member Jeremiah Ellison, who represents parts of north Minneapolis that are experiencing high levels of gun violence. “There appears to be a framing of ‘you either think the issue is bad enough, or you don’t.’ And every single one of my colleagues knows if that’s how you’re framing the argument, that’s so full of BS and that is so insincere.”

Fletcher, Ellison, Council President Lisa Bender, Jeremy Schroeder, Cam Gordon and Phillipe Cunningham all voted against the measure. Council members Andrea Jenkins, Lisa Goodman, Linea Palmisano, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, Kevin Reich and Jamal Osman voted in favor.

The full council is expected to vote on Friday. Unless council members change their minds before then, the proposal will be approved.

In the past, the city has enlisted the help of sheriff’s deputies, transit police and state troopers. Past collaborations have covered the normally busy summer months. Under this proposal, sheriff’s deputies and transit police officers will assist MPD until the end of the year.