Minneapolis City Council pushes back against $15M plan to retain, attract new police hires

Police in uniform raise their right hands.
New police officers raise their hands to take an oath at a Minneapolis Police Academy graduation ceremony at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Minneapolis City Council’s Budget Committee voted Tuesday to not hear a $15 million plan to offer Minneapolis police officers recruitment and retention bonuses.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

The Minneapolis City Council’s Budget Committee voted to not hear a plan to offer Minneapolis police officers recruitment and retention bonuses just days after Mayor Jacob Frey unveiled it. The mayor has called for a special meeting Friday for council members to consider the deal again. 

Under the tentative agreement between the city and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, existing officers will get $18,000 and new hires will get $15,000 over three years at an estimated cost of $15.3 million. In exchange, the police union agreed to allow the chief to assign officers to vacant shifts more quickly. 

Budget Committee Chair Emily Koski offered a sharp rebuke of the administration during the meeting, saying the mayor had ignored her requests to collaborate with the council to find a use for the one-time state public safety aid. 

Koski said she does support the police, and supports higher wages for them, but said data shows incentives aren’t an effective use of taxpayer money. She said the mayor uses low police staffing levels as a justification. 

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“‘Critically low staffing levels’ has become a catchphrase to use when they want to instill fear in us and the public, to push us to make rash decisions and to push us to make decisions based on emotions rather than the facts,” Koski said. “We keep getting backed into a corner with false narratives thrown in our faces — and I’m tired of it.”

Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw said she’s been aware of the terms of the agreement for some time. She said the council isn’t “taking seriously the loss of officers.” 

“This is a bad look for our city, we are losing officers at a rapid pace,” Vetaw said. “Guess what? Incentives boost morale. Incentives make folks want to jump on board to get a little bit extra money. Incentives help overall the organization.” 

The committee voted against adding the plan to the budget committee agenda 7-5. 

The mayor wants council members to vote on the plan at a special meeting Friday. In a statement, Frey said refusing to even add the agreement to the committee’s agenda denied “an opportunity for policymakers to vote on a crucial community safety proposal.”

“I’m calling this special meeting because Minneapolis residents rightly expect us to explore every option to attract and retain officers and reform the police department,” Frey said. 

Chief Brian O’Hara said in a statement that the committee’s decision is deeply disappointing, and that the attrition experienced by the department isn’t sustainable. 

“Enough talk,” O’Hara said. “Now is the time for action.”

The agreement was made public at a press conference last Friday, where Frey and O’Hara argued that the incentives were necessary to slow the “exodus” of officers from the department. The current number of active officers not on leave is 186 short of the 731 officers required by the city’s charter, according to the department.