Tensions between the Minneapolis City Council and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo spiked Tuesday as they debated whether to bring in outside law enforcement to help address a shortage of officers amid a wave of violent crime.
With dozens of people dead and roughly 500 wounded by gunfire so far in 2020 — the highest tally in at least 15 years — residents have been begging city leaders for a strategy to stem the violence.
With an unprecedented number of officers on leave, Arradondo pleaded for money to bring in help from nearby departments.
"Resources are hemorrhaging. Our city is bleeding at this moment. I'm trying to do all I can to stop that bleeding," the chief said.
Many of the council members he was addressing pledged months ago to work toward "ending" the department following George Floyd's death.
Before narrowly advancing the plan, some of them grilled the chief, asking how he'd spent the department's roughly $185 million budget and what difference an extra $500,000 would make, if prior efforts to stem the violence had failed.
Council Member Steve Fletcher noted that the department had already cut back on some proactive policing programs amid the officer shortage to focus on patrolling and responding to 911 calls.
"So, we're going to take a thing that has not been working very well and has not been addressing carjackings, has not been addressing the rise in violent crime ... and say if we just do 5% more of it, that will get us to a better place. I'm struggling to get my head around why that is a good idea," Fletcher said.
Arradondo pushed back hard, saying 74 people have been killed and nearly 500 shot and wounded in Minneapolis this year.
"We can go back and forth on the $185 million but that is not stopping the bloodshed that is occurring every day in our city," the chief said.
He noted that about 90% of the department's budget goes toward officers' salaries and benefits.
The chief told Fletcher that, if he had a better idea, he should share it. "If you choose to say no to these victims of crime, then please stand by that," Arradondo said.
Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said he thought it was "b.s." and "insincere" to frame the discussion as if council members who opposed the extra patrols didn't care about crime victims.
"What I'm hearing is that we don't have to put together a strategy. We don't have to put together a plan. We don't need to provide any budget transparency. 'Shut up and pay us,' " Ellison said.
Mayor Jacob Frey jumped in to support the chief, saying he felt that he'd worked hard to be transparent and to come up with a workable proposal.
"We can't go off on staff when we don't like their recommendations," the mayor said.
Frey said city employees deserve respect from elected leaders. "And if we can't, I don't think we should continue to haul them in to be belittled," he said.
Police staffing and budget requests that once would have been considered fairly routine have become more complex since Floyd's death, as the city debates how to change policing.
Arradondo is asking for money to bring in 20 to 40 officers from the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Metro Transit Police to form joint enforcement teams. The city would reimburse the agencies for their officers' salaries and benefits.
While the details of the contracts are still being negotiated, Arradondo said he imagines the extra officers would be available to help answer 911 calls or work on special teams formed to help combat violence in hot spots.
The extra officers have the same arrest and investigatory powers as Minneapolis police. They would still be subject to their home departments' policies, and the other agencies would likely maintain liability for them, the chief said.
The city has used these teams in the past, including in the summer of 2014, when they were brought in to help on the North Side during a violent crime wave. Typically, Arradondo can work with the city attorney's office to enter these types of mutual-aid agreements himself.
This request, though, requires additional money from the city's contingency fund, and that requires council approval. Frey asked the council to sign off on the additional funding after he spoke with Arradondo about ways to offset the loss of officers.
At the beginning of the year, the department had 874 police officers, seven of whom were on some form of leave. As of Monday, it had 834 officers, 121 of whom were on leave, according to spokesman John Elder. Some of the officers on leave have filed PTSD claims stemming from their response to the unrest that followed Floyd's death.
The proposal will likely come up for a final council vote Friday. It passed out of the council's Policy & Government Oversight Committee on a 7-6 vote Tuesday.
Voting in favor of the proposal were Council Members Kevin Reich, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson, Linea Palmisano and Andrea Jenkins.
Voting against it were Fletcher, Ellison, Cam Gordon, Phillipe Cunningham, Lisa Bender and Jeremy Schroeder.
If approved, the teams would be authorized to run through the end of the year.
Staff Writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.