The Minneapolis Police Department, facing historic upheaval following the death of George Floyd three years ago, reportedly dropped last month to its lowest staffing level in four decades.
The department also had the lowest ratio of police officers to population served among 22 U.S. cities sampled, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune analysis. The Minneapolis police force has just 585 sworn officers, slightly more than the number of officers in the neighboring St. Paul Police Department, which serves about 120,000 fewer residents.
According to the newspaper, Minneapolis police staffing problems are so severe some nights that precincts have only four officers assigned to patrol their designated neighborhoods, and with no one to answer the phones, residents seeking action in person to police reports are satisfied. with locked doors and makeshift signs asking to call 911 in case of emergency.
The Star Tribune’s analysis indicates that only Portland, Oregon, had a lower officer-to-resident ratio at the end of last year. Portland had 1.3 police officers per 1,000 residents, compared to 1.4 in Minneapolis. The national average was 2.4.
“It’s absolutely not sustainable,” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara told the Tribune, noting how law enforcement partners, such as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, stepped in to combat violent crime following some of the cases. the bloodiest three years in the city’s history. “Thank goodness for all these other agencies filling this gap.”
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At the time of Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis police employed approximately 900 sworn officers. Subsequently, the department experienced a mass exodus of resignations, early retirements and officers taking mental and physical health leave following the massive Black Lives Matter anti-police riots that swept the city.
The decades-old city charter requires the department to maintain a minimum of 731 officers.
Several residents plagued by daily burglaries, carjackings, and gun violence in their neighborhood after Floyd’s death sued the city for failing to comply with charter requirements, and in June 2022, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the city council had released enough funds to hire 731 people. officers, and Mayor Jacob Frey is expected to fill the shortfall of about 200 officers. However, month after month, the city no longer respects this decision, while the department struggles to recruit new agents to cope with the wave of retirements.
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“This is a problem of our own making,” Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, which represented the group of residents who brought the lawsuit, told the Tribune. “They created a mess that led to some reluctance to join or apply for these police positions.”
The department still does not have enough officers to revive its disbanded community engagement unit, which O’Hara said is key to rebuilding trust and effective proactive policing to combat crime. Civilian analysts helped extract video and, through their office work, lead ongoing criminal investigations.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s what’s going away first,” O’Hara said. “We’ll never change people’s perceptions of us – and we’ll never build meaningful relationships with people – if all we do is respond from one emergency to the next.”
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Meanwhile, activists have pushed for reform measures aimed at shifting reliance on police to more mental health services. The Minneapolis Behavioral Crisis Response Teams pilot program diverted thousands of calls traditionally handled by police.