Four hundred more cops. That’s how many additional patrol officers Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo wants to bring on board by 2025. He argues that status-quo staffing isn’t sufficient to meet the dramatically changed peacekeeping and law enforcement needs of the city.
It’s a huge request; it would increase the department’s sworn patrol staff by nearly two-thirds. In our view, it’s too ambitious. Minneapolis would be hard-pressed to fund that kind of increase for one agency.
That said, the chief made strong arguments during a recent presentation to the City Council. He said more cops are urgently needed to improve lagging response times, reduce overtime and overworked officers and allow more beat cops to interact with citizens.
Arradondo told an editorial writer the department has been understaffed for years and that he feels compelled to give an honest assessment of where MPD needs to be. Currently the department has 888 sworn staff, but only about 600 of them are officers on the street. The others, including the chief, are officer/managers, including captains and inspectors. And many of them are investigators whose roles are crucial to solving crimes.
In an earlier request, the chief asked to increase total sworn staff up to 1,000 over the next several years. But his recent proposal would raise the total complement to at least 1,300 by 2025.
The staffing hike was recommended against this backdrop: Supporting the idea are numerous downtown residents and business owners who worry about increased violent crimes including assaults and shootings. And some in more violence- and crime-plagued communities also want a stronger police presence to improve safety in their neighborhoods.
At the same time, MPD must work with some City Council members who question adding officers and would rather use resources for more liaison-type positions. Concerns about police-involved shooting injuries and deaths also put a damper on expanding law enforcement ranks.
In fact, Minnesota’s attorney general and public safety commissioner recently announced the formation of a work group to study police-involved shootings statewide. Keith Ellison and John Harrington will co-chair the group that will hold hearings and eventually offer policy recommendations for improved investigations and law enforcement. State data shows there have been 101 officer-involved shootings in Minnesota since 2014.
Meanwhile, at an average cost per officer of about $100,000 per year (salary and benefits), Arradondo’s plan would add about $8 million per year to the city’s spending in each of the next five years to add 80 cops to the force each year. The 400 new cops would in the end increase the annual city budget by about $40 million. That’s a heavy financial lift that city taxpayers may be reluctant to bear.
In mid-August, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey will give his annual budget address outlining his city spending proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year. That plan is expected to include additional resources for the Police Department, as it should. Frey said he shares the chief’s desire for more cops but doesn’t think 400 is realistic.
That’s right. Although some additional MPD staff should be part of the next annual budget, 80 more full-time equivalents would be too many.