Minneapolis police officers have been slower to arrive to emergencies so far this year, continuing a trend that some city officials say is a downside of community-style policing.
Between July and September, the department’s average reported response times for the most urgent 911 calls — “unstable scenes” with an imminent threat to life or property — were 10 minutes, 45 seconds, Minneapolis Police Department figures show. That’s 42 seconds longer than the same period last year and continues a steady lengthening of response times over the past four years.
Callers who reported situations without an immediate threat of harm, dubbed “Priority 2,” had to wait an average 36 minutes, 47 seconds to see a squad. That’s up from 34 minutes, 26 seconds during the same span in 2016.
Sgt. Catherine Michal, a police spokeswoman, said that officers are being asked to spend more time at crime scenes or in some cases are getting stuck in traffic jams around ongoing construction around the city.
“They’re also on a call longer, they’re gathering more evidence, they’re trying to do a better job,” Michal said this week.
Under former Chief Janeé Harteau, she added, new officers were required to spend the first six months of their careers walking a beat, only responding to certain 911 calls.
Response times varied by precinct. As in the past, the fastest times were in downtown, where officers took an average of 9 minutes, 51 seconds to respond to Priority 1 calls. The slowest were in southwest Minneapolis with an average response time of 11 minutes, 28 seconds, edging out the Third Precinct, which again fielded the most calls for service.
Officials cautioned against reading too much into the time lags in certain precincts without knowing more about the nature of the emergencies. Others argued that response times are an outdated measure of police performance, particularly at a time when the city’s officers are encouraged to spend more time out of their squad cars and get to know the communities they patrol.
According to the 2017 Results Minneapolis report: “If traditional measures of policing success have been viewed from the response time model (how fast an officer responds to and clears from a service call) then intentionally asking our officers to spend more time at service calls positively engaging with the community may result in increased response times.”
Police union officials and some City Council members have argued that the city doesn’t have enough officers. In the past, police response times have risen and dropped roughly in tandem with the department’s overall staffing level.
The fastest response times were in 2009 and 2010, when police got to the highest priority calls in 8 minutes flat.
Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said he expects to see more cops on the streets this spring, after the Super Bowl, with the start of a new shift bidding system that lets officers pick their own assignments.
Social media is dotted with reports of people waiting for hours after dialing 911 to complain about drug sales, car break-ins and other crimes.
In one instance, a man tweeted that he had waited for three hours for an officer to arrive after his truck was broken into. Police never came, the man wrote, posting a photo of the truck’s smashed-in passenger window.
An hour later, the department tweeted back: “Sorry for the lack of response- ofcs were on priority calls- crash w/ injuries, fights, welfare checks, assaults, missing person.”