After a tense debate, the Minneapolis City Council narrowly approved the police chief’s request to allow other local law enforcement agencies to help fill gaps in staffing. The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) has experienced a 20% drop in officers from the beginning of the year while at the same time, crime rates, especially violent crime, have increased significantly. Councilmembers were divided on giving additional funds to the Department, how quickly the reimagining of the MPD should occur and the best way to deal with the increase in crime.
On Tuesday, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo asked the Council Policy and Government Oversight Committee for $500,000 and permission to contract with the Henepin County Sheriff’s Department and Metro Transit to provide additional law enforcement personnel. In January of this year, there were 875 working MPD officers. As of a week ago, there were 715, a drop of 160 from the beginning of the year. The chief did not mince words, telling Councilmembers the department was “hemorrhaging resources”. He said, “The city is bleeding at this moment,” and that he is “trying to stop the bleeding.”
Budget Committee Chair Councilmember Linea Palmisano told the councilmembers this request wasn’t required to be brought to the full Council for a vote, but thought it was important to provide transparency since the MPD had been under scrutiny since the death of George Floyd in May. Multiple councilmembers decided to use the opportunity to let Chief Arrandondo know they were not happy the request and questioned where the $185 million police budget had gone.
Councilmember Steve Fletcher confronted Chief Arrandondo, asking how the MPD could spend through their budget and have an increase in crime, when there should be a savings to the Department when the Council cut the 2020 class of new officers. He answered his own question, saying it was a result of the police union contract that allows officers to take an unlimited amount of leave at the same time. Councilmember Fletcher called the police union contract, “as currently written is a threat to public safety.”
Chief Arradondo replied to Fletcher’s questions that he was doing the best he could with the resources he has but that he was asking for what his Department needed today. “If you have a suggestion of how to do it better, please let me know. I have been doing this job for three decades. I’m coming to say that we need these extra resources.” The chief then acknowledged their right to do so but added, “If you choose to say no to these victims of crime, please stand by that.”
Councilmembers took issue with the Chief’s comments. Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison said what he heard from the Chief was that he has, “No strategy. No plan. Just shut up and pay us.” He said they have a strategy to reduce crime, intervention. “How is this half million going to do what $185 million hasn’t,” Ellison rhetorically asked.
Councilmember Fletcher further pressed the Chief, saying the additional money would not go towards a targeted strategy the Council was looking for. Chief Arradondo pushed back, telling Fletcher that the police department is just one part of public safety and while his police are making arrests and taking guns off the street, there is nothing he can do if the courts put the criminals back onto the streets.
The debate continued this way for almost two hours, with those councilmembers who eventually voted against the proposal arguing no additional money or resources were needed and if they were used, they would be best put toward “crime intervention” services.
Purposefully or not, a few of the councilmembers’ comments questioned the effectiveness of these intervention strategies. At one point in the conversation, Council President Lisa Bender said that a carjacking gang made up kids ages 11 to 13 had received intervention services and their families are in contact with service providers. She said that while the interventions have not worked to date, the current system is not working to support them and their families or to stop crimes. She mentioned the young carjackers had been arrested multiple times.
Oddly, the vote came down to Councilmember Andrea Jenkins, who has been vocal about her support for defunding the MPD in the past. She compared the transformation of the MPD to remodeling a house. She said they can’t move out of the MPD “house” while they renovate it and must provide resources for crime while they remodel. In a surprising comment, Councilmember Jenkins said that support services can’t address all crime issues, just as police cannot address all crime issues.
The contract and budget increase was approved on a 7 to 6 vote.