Minneapolis mayor rejects chief's goal of 400 new street cops

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says he doesn’t support his police chief’s recommendation to hire 400 new police officers by 2025, saying a more limited number would be better.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said this week that Minneapolis needed 67 percent more street cops to police the increase in shootings, drug epidemics, homelessness and a rising city population. His suggestion fell flat with the City Council, and Frey said it wasn’t feasible.

“We need more officers,” Frey said in an interview. “I will say, however, that due to budgetary constraints and several other priorities that obviously we have within the budget, we’re not going to be able to get to that number that he put out. So, to be clear, I’m for more officers, but not getting to that specific number.”

Arradondo’s recommendation would bring the number of patrol officers to 1,000 – up from the current 600. The chief said his department did not have enough resources to respond to an average of three high-priority 911 calls per day over the past year.

Many members of City Council responded in disbelief this week.

“At approximately $150,000 per officer this would cost about $60 million annually above what the city already invests in MPD, not including settlements for police violence. In 2025, who will be able to afford to live in Minneapolis?” Council President Lisa Bender said on Twitter.

“It’s an astonishingly large number,” said Councilman Andrew Johnson, who instead advocated that the city reduce its two-person patrols to a single person, to get more squad cars on the streets. 

Lt. Bob Kroll, who heads the police union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins said she was surprised by Arradondo’s recommendation. Jenkins said she would keep an open mind, but said the existing police agencies in the city – MPD, University of Minnesota Police, and Metro Transit Police – first ought to improve their coordination.

“A lot of my colleagues are really concerned about some of the ways that the police force has been patrolling our streets,” Jenkins said.

Minneapolis falls below the midpoint of sworn strength when compared with 17 other cities with populations between 300,000 and 600,000 people, an analysis of FBI police employee data by Governing Magazine indicates.

Minneapolis had 20.3 officers per 10,000 residents in 2016. By comparison, St. Louis, Missouri had 38 officers and Milwaukee, Wisconsin had 31.5. Sacramento, California had the lowest number of officers among those cities analyzed: 13.2.

When asked about skepticism among City Council members, Arradondo said he was focused on providing effective emergency response.

“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,” he told reporters.

When Frey proposes a city budget later this year, he’ll have to sell council members on the need for new officers.

“I don’t have a clear recipe for any sorts of advocacy but what I can tell you is my position,” the mayor said. “And my position is that, in order to do the job of transformation of our police department, in order to ensure public safety and a just force, we do need to give the department the resources they need to do their jobs well.”