Amid growing concerns over an increase in shootings, the city of Minneapolis will get a $1.2 million federal grant to hire 10 more police officers to try to dampen gun violence in certain neighborhoods.
The grant is part of $98.5 million in federal funding awarded to 179 law enforcement agencies across the country for the hiring of 802 new officers, the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office announced Monday.
“Cities and states that cooperate with federal law enforcement make all of us safer by helping remove dangerous criminals from our communities,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a news release. “I continue to encourage every jurisdiction in America to collaborate with federal law enforcement and help us make this country safer.”
The only other Minnesota policing agency to receive funding was the Upper Sioux Indian Community, which got $125,000 to hire another officer for its six-person force. The grant award will cover as much as 75 percent of the officers’ salaries and benefits for three years, with cities on the hook for the rest.
Federal officials said that they gave preference to cities who cooperated with Trump’s immigration policies, pointing out that more than three-quarters of the grant recipients were chosen for their “willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities,” the news release said.
Sessions has in recent months threatened to withhold grants for fighting drug-trafficking and gang crime from cities that refuse to give federal immigration authorities access to jails and notify them before releasing inmates wanted on immigration violations — even after a series of federal court decisions that declared the practice unconstitutional.
Many cities have remained defiant, Minneapolis included, saying that local police shouldn’t get involved in immigration matters.
Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek has come under fire by immigration advocates and county officials, who accused his office of coziness with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While his office doesn’t honor so-called immigration detainer requests, which allow undocumented inmates to be handed over to federal authorities after their release, it does alert ICE when deputies book foreign-born detainees, among other assists.
Stanek again defended his policy on Monday, saying that his office was simply following the law. Still, he said that he sided with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other national law enforcement bodies that have spoken out against mandates to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law.
“Law enforcement has been very clear with the Department of Justice that as law enforcement officers we don’t set public policies,” Stanek said.
City Council Member Cam Gordon praised the department for making use of federal resources to battle crime.
“I’m hoping we can even strengthen that and even have some influence with the county in the way that it’s treating and working with arrestees,” Gordon said on Monday. “I’d like to see a so-called sanctuary county, as well.”
Gordon said he had spoken to Stanek about options for addressing the sheriff’s immigration policy and jail overcrowding, “including having some night court or weekend court so that people didn’t have to be jailed, so they wouldn’t be subject to the process that he’s got.”
Sessions and President Donald Trump have said repeatedly that the nation is in the grip of a crime wave and calling for more aggressive policing, even though criminologists argue that crime rates remain near historic lows.
Minneapolis officials have said the extra manpower would be welcome. The department’s current head count is 892 officers — including a class of 22 not-quite-street-ready cadets that will graduate in mid-December — although the city is bracing for a wave of officer retirements next spring after the Super Bowl.
“While we certainly appreciate the funding for more officers, we are still in the process of analyzing where to assign the additional staff,” said department spokesman Corey Schmidt. “The chief is working on determining where the greatest needs are within the department, and coupling that with the requirements set forth in the grant agreement.”
While overall crime continues to fall in Minneapolis, gun-related violence has picked up in recent years.
This past weekend saw six people shot on the city’s North Side, including four who were wounded when a gunman opened fire in the Folwell neighborhood early Saturday.
At the current pace for 2017, the city would log its second-highest tally of shootings in the past 10 years, behind only 2016, when 341 people were struck by gunfire. The city has averaged 243 gunshot victims per year over the previous decade, according to department figures.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.