Crime, Law and Justice

Minneapolis police incentive plan aimed at ending 'exodus' of officers

DOJ Investigation on MPD
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara addresses the media during a press conference. O'Hara and Mayor Jacob Frey announced an agreement with the police union on Friday that would offer incentives to retain police officers.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The city of Minneapolis has agreed during negotiations with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis that it will provide $15.3 million in incentives to retain police officers over the next three years. It’s intended to reverse what Chief Brian O’Hara called the exodus of police officers from the department.

In exchange, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis agreed to give the police chief the authority to assign officers to vacant shifts more quickly.

O’Hara said the current process officers use to bid for shifts under the union contract requires that vacant shifts be open for a minimum of 28 days. The agreement shortens the vacancy duration to 10 days.

“Under the current contract, without this change, it could take almost seven weeks to permanently reassign someone to a vacancy in 911, depending on where the 28 day pay cycle falls,” O’Hara said. “With that, we’ll be able to do permanent reassignments much quicker, this is in the interest of public safety.”

Under the agreement, existing police officers will get $18,000 and new hires will get $15,000 over three years. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the incentive pay makes Minneapolis competitive with other cities also struggling to attract officers.

“Yes, we need to be holding officers accountable and at the same time, they are doing a very tough job, and we need to make sure that we’re paying for the kind of service, the kind of accountability that we all are expecting on a daily basis,” Frey said.

It’s part of the city’s effort to retain officers. The department reports that there were 545 sworn officers not on leave as of the end of October.

The city charter requires that the city budget for 731 police officers, but the department has struggled to retain officers and to recruit new officers to what O’Hara called the “toughest job in policing in this country today.”

“The reality on the ground is that our cops are going from call to call to call all day long,” O’Hara said. “While obviously that is their job, I am more concerned that our regular officers have no time during the course of their day to engage with residents, to engage with young people, to be present in non-law enforcement settings because now is the time in this town that we need that more than ever.”

O’Hara said he expects the incentives to affect the amount of overtime being paid out to police officers, which has increased dramatically in recent years.

Frey said the agreement shouldn’t be seen as a tradeoff.

“It’s an important step that we’re paying officers more through these incentives, and it’s an important step to get to the reform,” Frey said. “Oftentimes in a negotiation you’re giving something up in order to get something in return, this is the rare circumstance where we actually want to do both.”

Funds to pay for the incentives comes from the state of Minnesota’s public safety aid.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council and is expected to come up at council next week.

Contract negotiations between the city of Minneapolis and the police federation are ongoing.

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