Budget cuts and staff shortages will make the Minneapolis Police Department “one-dimensional,” with fewer detectives to crack patterns of crime, Chief Medaria Arradondo warned council members Thursday.
Facing a potential $14 million cut, Arradondo said the department will have to shift its resources to officers who respond to 911 calls and investigate crimes. That means other, proactive work will be scaled back, the chief said during a public budget meeting.
“It’s really something I would rather not do,” Arradondo said.
Hours after they discussed the cuts to the Police Department, a City Council committee signed off on a $110,000 plan to hire two more workers, and potentially a contractor, to solicit public input as they seek to overhaul public safety in the city.
The Minneapolis Police Department has found itself in a precarious situation since George Floyd’s death, with some residents calling on city leaders to end the department and others calling on them to increase resources there amid a spike in violent crime.
At the same time city leaders are debating how to change the department, they are also dealing with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, which will lead to budget cuts in nearly every city department.
A final vote on the budget will likely come in December, after the council negotiates changes with Mayor Jacob Frey. A budget plan Frey proposed earlier this year calls for roughly $1.5 billion in spending for 2021, about $179 million of which would go to the Police Department.
In a presentation Thursday morning, Arradondo outlined in new detail how initial proposed changes would affect his department. Because of the budget cuts and an unprecedented wave of officer departures, the city anticipates the department will have 937 full-time employees in 2021, down from 1,083 budgeted in 2020. Those figures include both officers and civilians.
The employees who remain will likely work more overtime, which will have a “human and financial cost,” Arradondo said, and residents should expect longer response times if the existing crime levels persist.
Of the remaining employees, the bulk of them — 531, down from 604 budgeted in 2020 — would be assigned to public safety services, meaning they would focus primarily on responding to 911 calls. The next largest group, 192 employees, down 34, would work on investigations and forensics. Arradondo said detectives will have to work as “generalists,” following up on many types of crimes, rather than specializing in one, such as homicides or robberies. As a result, the chief said, investigators would have larger caseloads.
Council Member Steve Fletcher said he had concerns about cuts to investigations, noting it was the “place I’d be the least likely to cut.”
“I’m concerned that we are cutting, but then at the same time, also making ourselves less effective for the money,” said Fletcher, who represents part of downtown.
Council Member Lisa Goodman, who also represents downtown, called the chief’s report “somewhat alarming.”
“I don’t feel that it’s taking into account the crime and safety issues we have generally and what I’m hearing from my own constituents,” she said, adding that she has heard from business owners who say their employees are scared to come to work and residents who have told her they’re afraid to go outside.
Those concerns were echoed Thursday afternoon when several dozen people shared their thoughts with a council committee. The public comment period — the council’s first on safety issues since Floyd’s death — was scheduled after people demanded it.
One after another, speakers said that they had lost their sense of safety because they or their loved ones had been victims of crimes, ranging from break-ins to assaults to having shots fired into their homes.
Unlike at earlier hearings held by the Charter Commission, when people widely advocated for cuts to the Police Department, many of the people who spoke Thursday said they wanted more officers and more funding for the department.
George Saad, a 10th Ward resident, told council members he is an immigrant, a minority and a “child of war.” He said he chose to live in Minneapolis because of its “rich diversity.” But, with the recent spike in crime, he no longer feels safe walking or driving around. He places some blame on the City Council.
“Since the unjustified and unfortunate death of George Floyd, the City Council has engaged in rhetoric that has emboldened criminals, the proof of which is in the unprecedented spike in crime,” Saad said, adding later: “You have endangered us, our homes and our businesses.”
Some suggested their own alternatives, such as implementing an emergency 60-day plan, or bringing in officers from other locations to help on a part-time basis. Many said they wanted more clarity from the council on their plans for changing policing — and whether they are willing to tweak or abandon them.
“I’m wondering: If this next year of community engagement and research for the new policing model does not show support for this, are you prepared to not move forward with this plan?” asked one speaker, Shannon McCormick.
A short while after the public comment period, the council’s Public Health and Safety Committee signed off on a plan to boost community engagement efforts on public safety issues.
The plan would waive the hiring freeze to hire two more employees and city bidding rules to hire a contractor to help with other outreach efforts, such as translation services or graphic design.