By Liz Navratil
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis will hire dozens more police officers after City Council on Friday agreed to release $6.4 million to bring on additional recruits.
The unanimous vote came eight days after Minneapolis police requested the funding, saying they were down 200 police officers from recent years. The additional funding comes at a time when some City Council members and activist groups are pushing to replace the Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Minneapolis police said they began the year with 817 officers on their payroll, 60 fewer than the prior year. But, only 638 officers are currently available to work, the department said. Some officers resigned or retired early in the year, while another 155 remain on some form of extended leave.
With the new recruit classes, the city expects it will have 674 officers available to work at the end of the year, and another 28 working their way through the hiring process at that time.
An unprecedented numbers of officers quit or went on an extended medical leave — many for PTSD claims — after Floyd’s death, rioting that led to the burning of a police precinct, and calls to end the city’s Police Department.
In the months since then, some residents have demanded city leaders to hire additional officers, saying they’re waiting longer for responses to emergency calls amid a dramatic uptick in violent crime. Others have encouraged elected officials to end the department, saying police haven’t proven effective at reducing crime.
The mayor and City Council have traditionally approved funding for police staffing in the budgeting cycle. Late last year, City Council, in one of its most assertive moves yet, created a new Public Safety Staffing Reserve Fund. That holds about $11.4 million for police overtime and recruit classes, money that can only be released with additional council approval.
Council members who supported the plan said they hoped to improve accountability and transparency for the Police Department.
On Friday, council approved the funding without any discussion, though Council Member Jeremy Schroeder did ask the mayor earlier in the meeting for more specific details about police officer discipline.
Earlier this week, days ahead of the final City Council vote, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced that they were making changes to the hiring process.
Minneapolis police plan to update the application for recruits to include additional questions about whether they have ever lived in Minneapolis, whether they have degrees in criminology, social work, psychology or counseling, and whether they volunteer or participate in programs like the Police Activities League.
Deputy Police Chief Amelia Huffman said they hope the change “will help us to really feel confident that we are recruiting the kinds of candidates we want right from the beginning.”
Those changes will go into effect next week, when the city posts openings for a new class of officers, who will begin late in the summer.
Three City Council Members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder — have written a proposal that would replace the Police Department with a public safety department that includes police and other services. It would also remove the mayor’s “complete power” over city police operations.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local community groups, is also collecting signatures to try to get a similar proposal on the November ballot.
In additional to approving the police funding, the City Council also approved a nearly $230,000 contract with risk management company Hillard Heintze LLC. The company will produce a report analyzing the city’s response to the rioting that followed Floyd’s death.
“The review will help address gaps in service and provide a comprehensive narrative detailing the City’s response to the civil unrest,” the city auditor’s office wrote in the request for funding.
(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)