Less than a month after an election in which gun violence became a critical issue, the Minneapolis City Council on Friday made the right choice to add more cops to the city’s police force.
An amendment to the budget proposed by outgoing Mayor Betsy Hodges gets more directly to the heart of growing citizen concerns about increased violence and livability crimes.
In her 2018 budget, Hodges appropriated $478,000 for hiring late-night traffic specialists to work downtown throughout the week and around bar closing hours on weekends. She also recommended adding eight police department community navigators, she said, based on priorities expressed by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
But the City Council wisely unanimously approved an amendment by Council Members Lisa Bender and Jacob Frey, the mayor-elect, to allocate those funds differently. Council members voted to use the $478,000 as matching funds for a federal grant that will help pay for 10 new police officers to combat gun violence in the city.
That’s a good use of public safety dollars even though law enforcement officials acknowledge that cities cannot arrest their way out of criminal activity. They agree that violence prevention and intervention approaches are needed.
It’s also important to have enough cops on the streets. A stronger police presence will help the public feel safer — especially in downtown Minneapolis. And when officers hired or reassigned to that beat are good at building relationships with constituents, they can offer a two-for one benefit.
In a two-part series in September, the Star Tribune Editorial Board examined the crime problem downtown. Reporting for the series revealed growing concern about violent crime and livability issues among downtown residents, workers and business owners. They told us they wanted more cops on the streets and more assurances that officers have the tools they need to arrest and jail chronic offenders. They also rightly want a stronger city response to aggressive panhandling and harassment.
As part of the funding shift, council members also voted to support hiring a “culturally sensitive” housing inspector and two full-time employees to review police body camera video. To fund those hires and secure the matching funds to hire more cops, the council cut four of eight community navigators proposed by Hodges.
Arradondo said that he understood the council’s actions and that he would welcome the four navigators. He said they’ll work on a number of issues, including helping undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime and aiding those addicted to heroin and other opioids.
The budget amendment offered a good compromise — a reasonable balance between preventive and responsive law enforcement approaches. The shift will put more sworn officers on the job and will boost the number of community liaison workers — both strategies that can help improve public safety.