Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo are rightly seeking to increase the number of sworn police officers serving the city. Additional cops can help prevent and solve crimes, do a better job on enforcement and improve relationships with constituents.
But some City Council members and community activists question the value of adding more officers. They posit that funds used for police salaries would be better spent on crime-fighting grass-roots groups and on innovative methods to address public safety.
Those strategies are not mutually exclusive. Both should be employed to improve public safety and police-community relations.
There are good reasons to add to the state’s largest city police force. Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula for the “right’’ number of cops, comparisons to similarly sized cities can be helpful.
Minneapolis has 890 officers and another 25 assigned to the Park Police. With 413,600 residents, the city has an officer-to-population ratio of roughly 20 officers per 10,000 residents. That ratio is roughly half that of the nation’s largest cities and is lower than other large Midwestern cities such as Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Kansas City, Mo.
Arradondo said he’d like to increase the sworn force to 1,000 officers in the “next couple of years” as the city’s population grows. That’s a reasonable goal, and the city is moving in that direction. Next month, when 30 cadets graduate, the force is expected to exceed 900 officers. And last fall, Minneapolis received a $1.2 million federal grant to hire 10 additional officers to address rising gun violence.
A stronger, more visible police presence can help citizens feel safer — especially in some areas of downtown and other parts of the city with active nightlife and restaurant and entertainment scenes. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board explored in a 2017 series of editorials on public safety downtown, additional officers can give cops more time to work beats and get to know neighborhoods.
As a candidate last fall and now as mayor, Frey has a comprehensive approach to public safety. He emphasizes increasing the number of officers to give them more opportunities for positive engagement with citizens. With police currently stretched thin, Frey has argued, they only have time to run from call to call.
Both the chief and the mayor say that the department will also continue to focus on other efforts such as the co-responder model — which pairs officers with specialists on emergency calls involving mental health issues. And they want to hire more community navigators to respond to calls when officers aren’t needed. Again, both increasing the number of officers and more grass-roots approaches are needed.
There’s room for the administration and those skeptical of increasing the police force to find common ground. To improve prevention, deterrence and enforcement of crime, Minneapolis would be well-served if Frey and Arradondo are successful in increasing the number of sworn officers in the city.