In the ongoing debate over policing in Minneapolis, it's been difficult to get a pulse on public sentiment. Thanks to a new citywide survey, that's no longer the case.
A majority of Minneapolis residents want a significant number of additional police officers to patrol the city, according to a recent survey of city residents. That view deserves to be reflected in the 2020 budget decisions made this fall. A total of 63% of respondents supported expanding the force by 250 patrol officers by 2025, believing that having more cops on the beat would improve response times and overall public safety, while 28% opposed that level of hiring. When the number was changed to 125 officers, 68% supported the hiring and 24% opposed it.
The respected Washington, D.C.-based research firm GQR contacted 600 Minneapolis residents on both landlines and cellphones in early August. The poll was commissioned by the Downtown Council and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, organizations made up of business and community leaders who shared the results with the Star Tribune Editorial Board last week.
Participants were asked 18 questions, including whether they supported boosting the number of police officers. About half of the respondents were women; 35% were people of color; and respondents live in areas across the city. Among respondents of color, 65% supported adding 250 officers.
According to MPD officials, the department has 888 sworn staff members, but only about 600 of them are officers on the street. The remainder, including the chief, are officer/managers, including captains and inspectors. Or they work as investigators and detectives whose work is crucial to solving crimes.
Public safety, downtown crime, gun violence and police reform and staffing are vigorously debated issues in Minneapolis. Some City Council members and citizen police-reform advocates object to adding officers, arguing that more community-liaison positions and better policing is needed. They're concerned about the number of high-profile officer-involved shootings and low trust levels between some communities and the department.
But this needn't be an either-or proposition: Minneapolis needs more officers and better police-community relations.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo recently said his department needs an additional 400 officers by 2025 — a number the Editorial Board has acknowledged is unrealistic. And Mayor Jacob Frey is calling for 14 more cops in his proposed budget — three would go to traffic, three would investigate sexual-assault complaints, and eight would work as neighborhood outreach officers walking a beat.
Although Arradondo's goal is both politically and financially impractical, the city's population growth and the growing complexity of law enforcement work justify adding officers. MPD's troubling response times also support the call for more cops. The department recently reported that in the year ending June 30, police failed to immediately respond to 6,776 calls because not enough officers were available.
Minneapolis City Council members should pay close attention to the survey results. Until now, too many council members have been paying attention only to the loudest voices in the room.