St. Paul police chief makes case to City Council for more officers

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell went before the City Council Wednesday to make his case for more police officers. 

Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2020 budget gives more money to the police department, but also cuts the number of officers the city could hire. The police department is authorized to have 635 officers, but the mayor’s budget would cut that number by five. 

Axtell said he would really like to maintain that level, if not have the authorization to hire more officers to be as close to having 635 officers as he possibly can throughout the year. In his presentation, Axtell said that because of things like attrition, retirements and military leaves, the department is frequently below that number of officers

The chief said his department is already being stretched thin, adding that there were not enough officers to handle more than 5,000 911 calls over the last year. Due to the amount of data now available, investigations require more hours to complete. 

“Our investigators must now pore through dozens of new evidence sources, such as doorbell cameras...cameras on businesses, cell phone cameras, cellphone data, Fitbits of all things, GPS devices and smart car technology, just to name a few of the many data points that we have ” Axtell told the City Council. “Each takes time to recover and analyze.” 

The chief said that while all this technology has considerably helped investigations, it has just made them more complex as well—what would be done in a couple of weeks now takes a couple of months because it just bogs down investigators. 

All told, Axtell would like to keep the authorized number of officers where it is at and maybe get permission to hire more than that, rather than face any cuts, which he said would diminish the department’s response times.