St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Friday criticized his police chief's proposal to hire 50 more officers over the next two years, arguing that it would not be an effective way to improve community engagement.
Police Chief Todd Axtell proposed the increase to the City Council on Wednesday. His plan would bring the number of sworn officers from 626 — already the most in the department's history — to 676.
Carter wrote that he has "concerns about this proposal" in a message posted on his Facebook page about 7 p.m. Friday.
"The philosophy that more police officers, tougher prosecutors, and bigger jails equal a safer city has failed," Carter's note said. "Our driving goal shouldn't be to hire as many officers as possible but to reduce the number of times we have to call police in the first place."
More officers are needed to work with the residents as the city grows, Axtell told the council. Under his plan, new hires would spend six months in the department's community engagement unit before responding to emergency calls.
But Carter said that instead of hiring more officers to respond to emergencies, more work should be done to prevent emergencies in the first place.
"Community engagement isn't simply a temporary assignment for rookie officers, nor an add-on for after we've hired 50 new officers; it must be the underlying culture of our entire police department — every day, every officer," he wrote.
Axtell's proposal comes as the council begins work on its 2019 budget. Council members expressed support for his request earlier this week.
St. Paul spends three times as much on police and fire than on public resources such as libraries and community centers, according to Carter. Axtell's plan would increase the police department's annual budget by $5 million to $106 million.
"I look forward to working with residents and the city council through our budget engagement process to balance and prioritize this request alongside competing needs across our city, including much-needed investments in our city's streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, libraries and recreation centers," read the post.
Axtell issued a statement Saturday in response to Carter's post.
"I have a great deal of respect for Mayor Carter and I continue to support his vision for our city," the statement read. "The Mayor will set our budget and I will continue to lead our department to achieve our mutual goals."
Carter has been critical of the police force in the past, having called for more department oversight during his 2017 election campaign. The department revised its use-of-force policy earlier this year.
The Star Tribune has reached out to Carter's representatives for comment.