Tense fight over $8M in Minneapolis cop cuts

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 1, 2009 - 5:04 AM

Minneapolis council frustrated as chief targets specialists, civilians, more.

Don't expect to see mounted officers controlling crowds when downtown bars close or to call a neighborhood cop on a cell phone next year, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan warned City Council members Monday as he outlined plans to trim more than $5 million in police spending.

If the council approves the plans later this month, the department will lose 26 civilian positions, 21 crime prevention specialists, the mounted patrol and the police activity league. The chaplain corps, which works at tense crime scenes and notifies families when a loved one has died, is also on the chopping block. Even the employee assistance program will be a bare bones operation.

The cuts Dolan described Monday at a council committee hearing are on top of a $3 million deficit from this year's budget that Dolan needs to make up. When he asked the council if he could spread it over the next two years, Budget Chairman Paul Ostrow said he was angry that the chief was asking members "to just punt" on the problem.

"I had to cut everything. I had to make hard choices," Dolan said outside council chambers after the meeting. "This is how I think it should be done. I'm hearing frustrations in there."

Just a week ago, a frustrated budget committee asked Dolan to come back Monday with a specific budget plan for the entire $8.3 million. The $3 million deficit, Dolan said, could be whittled down through attrition. But if two dozen people don't leave over the next two years, officers might be laid off, he said.

Several committee members expressed doubt that many officers would want to quit their jobs in a struggling economy.

"Your budget leaves us with some uncomfortable choices," Ostrow said. "The council will look at its priorities for the department and might have to figure out where the cuts come from."

Dolan's proposed 2010 budget eliminates 47 civilian and prevention specialists jobs -- nearly $4 million in savings.

Contracted services, such as the chaplain corps, will reduce the budget by another $700,000. Transferring the mounted patrol's 12 officers to other duties adds another $230,000 to the coffers.

Some council members were still irked over the last budget meeting when Dolan informed them that department officials had recently learned of higher rates to lease and maintain vehicles, unexpected costs from bills by other cities responding to the 2007 Interstate 35W bridge collapse and extra jail fees paid to the county.

"I don't think you are clearly addressing the issues," Council Member Betsy Hodges said Monday. "I find this plan insufficient."

Dolan said that he had no easy choices in his budget proposal, that he was "cutting meat and not fat." Officers will have to pick up the work done by civilians, such as analyses and transcriptions, he said.

Council Member Gary Schiff and Ostrow both expressed disappointment over the chief's choice to cut crime prevention specialists, who handle nuisance properties and work with block club leaders to handle so-called livability crimes.

"I just got four e-mails today that people wanted me to forward to a specialist," Schiff said. "Who would I sent them to?"

Dolan replied that specialists have done a valuable job for years, but "I would be untruthful if I said cops will be able to step in and do their duties."

The Police Department has a $135 million budget. State funding cuts have forced Dolan to reduce his budgets for the last several years, but 2010 may have the most significant effect on the department's operation.

"And I fear there will be more funding cuts to come from the state this year," he said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters