Not available: Minneapolis City Council mum on violence, police staffing

Minneapolis City Council members were mostly silent Monday on two shootings that turned deadly over the weekend, and whether an uptick in downtown violence this year has made them more likely to approve funding to hire more police officers.

All 13 council members either declined or did not respond to interview requests made with their offices. Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins agreed to an interview after FOX 9 saw her in a public hallway at City Hall.

City Hall sources are uncertain how the council will vote in December on Mayor Jacob Frey’s request to hire 14 new cops. Roughly half of the council has publicly endorsed Frey’s proposal or say they’re open to it, while others have been critical of the proposal or simply haven’t said.

Minneapolis has seen 32 homicides so far in 2019, said John Elder, a Minneapolis Police spokesman. That is third-most over the past decade, according to a FOX 9 analysis of police homicide data.

Eight of the homicides have been in MPD’s first precinct, which includes downtown. That number is the highest in the past decade, according to police homicide data. There have been 632 violent crimes in the first precinct in 2019, third-most in the past 10 years.

One of this weekend’s deaths occurred in the downtown theater district, which has experienced a series of violent crimes this summer, raising concerns among downtown residents and the city’s professional sports teams.

“We need the city council, and until they get their heads around this – that this problem is only going to get worse – it’s not going to change,” said Joe Tamburino, president of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association. “If you allow (crime) to happen, if you tolerate it, it’s just going to breed more and more problems.”

The crime statistics have been closely watched at City Hall this year. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in July that the city should hire 400 additional patrol cops by 2025, bringing the total number to 1,000.

Minneapolis is below the average for sworn strength per capita when compared with 17 similarly-sized U.S. cities, a FOX 9 analysis of FBI data found this summer.

Arradondo said MPD had been unable to immediately respond to more than 6,000 high-priority 911 calls over a 12-month period because of a lack of staff.

Many council members have been slow to warm to Frey’s proposal for 14 new officers, which itself falls short of Arradondo’s request. Frey said when proposing his budget in August that he essentially faced two choices: watch council members torpedo Arradondo’s larger request and MPD would get no new officers, or propose a smaller figure he felt the council would approve.

Jenkins, in an interview, said she was “open” to hiring 14 new officers.

“I think we’re a growing city and we are seeing some disturbing sort of activities that are happening all around the city,” Jenkins said. She said she wanted to help Arradondo succeed in creating a “safer city.”

Council members Abdi Warsame, Lisa Goodman, Alondra Cano and Linea Palmisano have all made public statements supporting Frey’s proposal – or, in some cases, advocating for even more officers than what the mayor proposed.

But others – including Council President Lisa Bender and council members Steve Fletcher and Andrew Johnson – have questioned the need for additional police staffing. And some others haven’t said.