Mayor Frey requests funding for 14 new officers after protesters delay budget address

Mayor Jacob Frey is asking Minneapolis City Council for money to hire 14 new police officers, a request he made Thursday morning over boos and shouts from anti-police protesters during a chaotic scene at City Hall.

Frey’s request for additional staffing is 3.5 percent of what his own police chief, Medaria Arradondo, says he will soon need. But, skeptical council members – some of whom don’t favor any new officers – have forced the mayor to temper his request.

“I would say it’s a start,” Frey told reporters after his speech. “I’m trying to get a budget passed.”

Before the mayor could give his yearly budget address, Frey’s staff and security personnel initially blocked dozens of protesters from entering a cramped City Council chambers, where many of the seats had been reserved for various officials and department heads.

Pushing and shouting ensued, and city staff ultimately let the protesters in. They occupied the chambers, chanting, “Whose City Hall? Our City Hall!”

Council Vice-Chair Andrea Jenkins tried to restore order, but council members delayed their meeting by 20 minutes as they figured out how to respond to the protesters. Minneapolis Police came into the room to talk with some of the activists, but did not remove anyone.

The protesters were there in support of Jamar Clark, a black man shot and killed by Minneapolis Police in 2015.

Last week, the city of Minneapolis reached a tentative $200,000 settlement with the Clark family. Protesters said that amount was too low, compared with other settlements.

Frey got cheers from his invited guests, but was forced to speak through boos and shouts from protesters.

“We need safety beyond policing, but we still need police,” he implored. The protesters responded, “No!”

The 14 new officers would be split up three ways: eight would be neighborhood beat cops, three would be assigned to traffic enforcement, and the remaining three would handle sex crimes investigations.

Frey is leaning on public support for his police chief, Arradondo, who is seen as a change agent within the department.

“If we aren’t going to step up and make transformational change now – with this chief – then when?” Frey told council members. “With what chief?”

Last month, Arradondo said the city would need 400 street cops by 2025 to deal with a growing population plus increases in shootings and drug overdoses.

Frey and Arradondo have for weeks advocated for more resources based on a number of high-priority 911 calls that initially went unanswered over the past year because MPD didn’t have a squad to send. Police have said there were 6,700 such calls, or an average of 18 per day.

Asked on Thursday how a small number of additional officers would help reduce the number, neither Frey nor Arradondo promised sweeping improvements.

“If there’s one child, one senior, one elder, one student that can be positively impacted by that additional beat officer out there, that additional community resource officer, that’s a plus,” the chief said.

Some council members have signaled their opposition to hiring any new police officers.

Council Member Andrew Johnson said in July that Minneapolis Police should abolish two-person patrols and use single-person squads – though that would require the purchase of new police cars.

Council President Lisa Bender said last week she wasn’t outright opposed to the idea but said more community support – and not armed officers – was her favored approach.

Members Jeremiah Ellison, Steve Fletcher and Philippe Cunningham have all voiced skepticism about hiring more police. Council Vice-President Andrea Jenkins has said the current police agencies operating in the city should first improve their own coordination efforts.

Frey is proposing to raise the city’s property tax levy by seven percent in 2020.

The council is scheduled to hold public hearings and debate the budget before taking votes later this year.