In Minneapolis, more than 70 people have been killed and roughly 500 wounded by gunfire so far in 2020. And in just the past seven weeks, more than 70 people have been victims of often violent carjackings and robberies across the city at all times of the day and night.
These and other crimes have prompted citizens to plead for more city action on public safety. At the same time, the Minneapolis Police Department has fewer officers to deploy. On Jan. 1, MPD had 874 officers, seven of whom were on leave. As of Monday, the department was down to 834 officers, 121 of whom were on leave.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and the city administration are asking the City Council for funds to bring in 20 to 40 officers from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Metro Transit Police to form joint enforcement teams. It would cost the city about $500,000 to cover salaries and benefits through the end of this year.
Given the spike in violent crime and citizen pleas for help, council members should approve funding to get more cops on the streets as soon as possible. The council is expected to consider the request on Friday.
Specifics of the contracts with the other jurisdictions are still being worked out, but Arradondo says extra cops would help answer 911 calls or work on special teams formed to help combat violence in hot spots. The extra officers would be managed by MPD, but would be subject to their home departments' policies.
As sworn officers, they would have arrest and investigatory powers. And they'd have the advantage of working areas they already know in their jobs with their home departments.
The city has used these types of agreements in the past. Known as Joint Enforcement Teams, or JETS, they're used to target crime in one part of the city or for a particular event. In previous cases, the chief has worked with the city attorney's office to enter these types of mutual-aid agreements himself. However, money for this request would have to come from the city's contingency fund, and that requires council approval.
The public clearly understands the need for additional police. An August Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll found that a plan to reduce the number of MPD officers did not have majority support. And in September, a poll commissioned by the Downtown Council and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce showed that 68% of residents supported expanding the force by 125 officers by 2025. And that support for additional officers came before the recent dramatic increase in violent crime.
The need for more officers doesn't negate the need for major changes at MPD. The department should have more cops, devote more resources to violence prevention and community outreach, and make internal reforms. The racially biased subculture that has led to use of excessive force — especially against people of color — must be rooted out.
Following a heated City Council committee meeting on Tuesday, members voted 7-6 to advance the plan to the full council. Those in favor were Council Members Kevin Reich, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, Linea Palmisano and Andrea Jenkins. The nay votes came from Steve Fletcher, Jeremiah Ellison, Cam Gordon, Phillipe Cunningham, Lisa Bender and Jeremy Schroeder.
"Resources are hemorrhaging. Our city is bleeding at this moment," Arradondo said at Tuesday's meeting. "I'm trying to do all I can to stop that bleeding."
The City Council should do its part Friday and approve the chief's request.