The Minneapolis Police Department is bracing for a wave of officers retiring next spring following Super Bowl LII, prompting concern that the city won’t have enough officers on the streets with crime rates edging up in certain neighborhoods.
Dozens of department veterans are waiting to “put in their papers” so they can work the big game, part of a weeklong spectacle expected to draw tens of thousands to the Twin Cities for parties, concerts and drinks, said police union President Lt. Bob Kroll. Some veterans nearing retirement are sticking around with the expectation that there’ll be plenty of overtime work to go around, he said.
Roughly 50 of the department’s 856 sworn officers are over age 55 and eligible to retire now with full benefits, Kroll estimated, although officers can and do work past retirement age. Another 50 or so could elect to depart early and take a reduced pension. The department loses about 20 officers to retirement in any given year, but Kroll said he anticipates that number to double after the Super Bowl.
The department’s new administration under Chief Medaria Arradondo doesn’t share that sky-is-falling view of staffing levels.
“While the Chief certainly looks at attrition and has witnessed an increase in recent years, we do not have anything verifiable that tells us we will witness a ‘mass retirement’ post-Super Bowl,” Scott Seroka, a police spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Recruits in the pipeline
According to their projections, 171 officers, many of whom joined the department in the 1980s amid a hiring frenzy, will reach retirement age over the next five years. But retirements seldom happen en masse, the department pointed out, since officers’ reasons for leaving vary.
Two classes of 44 recruits are now making their way through the academy. Police officials say that between 20 and 30 cadets will be street-ready by March, with another two or three dozen candidates enrolled in the Community Service Officers program, which the department has used as a way to diversify its ranks.
City Council President Barb Johnson, who sits on the public safety committee, said she intended to meet with Arradondo to discuss hiring more civilians in administrative and technical jobs to free up officers for patrol duty.
“It’s a concern to me, because if we have a big bump in retirements and we don’t have people in the pipeline to replace them, that’s a challenging thing,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of work in the backgrounding and psychological testing; there’s a lot of work to getting people hired and trained.”
The Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee expects to reimburse Minneapolis at least $4.9 million for hosting the game; $3.1 million of that will go toward public safety.
Safeguarding the city during Super Bowl week, officials say, will require a massive coordinated effort. As the lead agency, the Police Department already has set up an outpost near U.S. Bank Stadium. Officers from Minneapolis and elsewhere in the state will be paid $55 an hour and $82 an hour for overtime.
Johnson said at a community meeting last week, where residents complained of slow response times, that she worried the department was facing an “age bubble.”
“With the Super Bowl, I’ve been hearing the same thing,” she said. “That some people are hanging on to work the Super Bowl and then they’ll be putting their notice in.”
Many U.S. cities are having a harder time recruiting officers, particularly minorities, amid widespread criticism of law enforcement following recent high-profile police shootings, said Normandale Community College sociology Prof. Stephen Sullivan.
“It’s not the most desirable job in the world, particularly from the minority point of view, because nationally there’s a lot of mistrust between minority communities and the police,” said Sullivan, who formerly served as Orono police chief.
Hiring a new generation
To counter the anticipated departures in Minneapolis, the department is developing campaigns aimed at recruiting younger, more tech-savvy candidates, said Seroka.
A new recruit with some police background comes in making $56,097 to $71,595 annually, depending on experience. Minneapolis has about 20.3 officers per 10,000 residents, putting it on par with other Midwestern cities like Omaha, Neb., and Denver, but behind the likes of Kansas City.
Johnson and others pointed out that the department has struggled with slowing response times in recent months, particularly for drug dealing and other low-priority calls. And while the overall crime rate continues to plummet, the city’s violent crime rate is on pace to increase for the third straight year, according to the most recent data available.
Mayor Betsy Hodges’ 2018 budget proposal recommended $122,500 to hire only one new officer, bringing the department’s authorized strength to 878.
Arradondo said in a statement last week that the department is on schedule to increase its authorized strength to 901 by 2022. He said that he asked the mayor for enough funding to hire additional outreach workers to handle “social issues that our officers are routinely called to in our communities that are not necessarily crimes but impact the public health of our city.”
Kroll has in the past called for raising the department’s strength to more than 1,000 officers, a figure that also was mentioned by former Chief Janeé Harteau as a target goal.
Kroll said he fears the new hires won’t do more than offset the departures of those who retire next spring.
“It’s gonna go bonkers in six months,” he said.