MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Wednesday that his agency will need 1,000 patrol officers by 2025, a major increase after decades of stagnant staffing levels.
Arradondo did not mention that specific number during a meeting of the City Council's Public Safety committee, raising it only to reporters afterward. The chief's suggestion would mark a 67 percent jump over the current 600 patrol officers. Some council members are skeptical of any increase in sworn strength – let alone such a large one.
Arradondo warned them that Minneapolis Police are currently unable to deal with a "never-before-seen" increase in shootings, drug epidemics and homelessness.
"Because our staffing needs have not been properly addressed over many years, it has resulted in our current MPD resources being strained to capacity and, quite frankly, we're hemorrhaging," Arradondo said.
Police did not have any officers available to respond to 1,251 of the highest-priority 911 calls during a 12-month period that ended June 30, Arradondo said. At the same meeting Wednesday, some members of the public told council members their own stories with slow police responses.
After the chief finished a presentation to council members, three of them – Steve Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, and Jeremiah Ellison – began raising concerns about Arradondo's conclusions.
The chief failed to give proper context for current staffing concerns – such as holdovers, where police officials keep patrol officers on duty past the normal end of their shifts – and did not provide comparisons to similar-sized cities, they said.
Fletcher, who represents downtown, accused Arradondo of trying to put political pressure on council members to approve new hiring. The chief denied the charge.
Cunningham, who represents parts of north Minneapolis, endorsed Arradondo's leadership but said patrol officers had a "culture" problem that more hiring would not solve.
"When we get down to the rank and file, there are a lot of folks who don't carry the same perspective and values that you do," Cunningham said.
Asked afterward how he would convince council members who appear to oppose any new hiring, Arradondo said he would continue to make the point about service for all city residents.
"I have to make sure that when our community members pick up the phone to call 911, they have a response," he said. "I understand there may be community members, elected officials, who may feel indifferent about that, and I'm willing to have those conversations, but I have to be honest in terms of the public safety needs of our city."
Before Arradondo spoke – an appearance requested by high-ranking council members – a public comment period lasted 90 minutes as residents from several parts of the city weighed in on the debate.
Many said they supported an increase in the number of patrol officers.
"Every time we ask for more squads, we get pushback from you guys saying, you can't police your way out of this," one north Minneapolis resident told council members. "That's not what we're asking. We're asking for them to do their basic jobs, and there's not enough police out there to do that."
Other residents, who live in varied areas from south Minneapolis to Cedar-Riverside to downtown, described problems in their own neighborhoods and asked for more officers.
A few residents spoke out against a hiring spree, advocating that funding be spent on mental health programs, homelessness outreach and efforts to reintegrate people who had gotten out of jail.
"The police are a reactive force. They're not preventing things," said one woman.