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Delmonico said it is tough to know how best to broaden the department’s diversity.
City records show that the department had 60 black officers in 1997, but that number fell year over year until it was just 49 by 2003, or about 6 percent of the force in a city which is 18 percent black.
In that year, 2003, a federal mediation agreement brokered by the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the city to address the minority shortfall within the department. Some progress was made: today there are 74 black Minneapolis police officers, or 9.2 percent of the force.
“That was an initiative driven by community people,” said Ron Edwards, a city activist who has closely watched the department’s diversity numbers for years. He was among a group of people who sat on the now-disbanded Police Community Relations Council, which was created by the federal mediation agreement.
“I’m disappointed,” Edwards said. He said if the city wants to make the police force mirror the city’s diversity, the incoming classes should not only match that of the city, but have enough minority hires to make up the gap within the department.
The City Council has authorized the department to hire enough officers to raise the department to 860 officers; it’s currently near 770 officers on the street, one of the lowest numbers in 25 years.
The city has 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents, a ratio that puts it below St. Paul and many other Midwestern cities. The depleted force has seen response times rise while officers have reported stopping fewer suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons. Violent crime, meanwhile, has risen 4.7 percent so far this year.
A hiring push will have up to 100 join the force before the end of the year, Harteau has pledged, though many of the officers will still be in field training through the end of the year. Some of the hires are fresh out of the police academy, while others have experience in departments elsewhere and won’t require as much field training.
Of all 85 of those potential hires — the cadets, recruits and hires with law enforcement experience — at least 60, about 71 percent, are white, according to the city figures. The number of white officers could be higher because some of the remaining 25 candidates didn’t share their race when they applied, according to the City Attorney’s office.
Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747