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MPD chief asks for money to hire outside officers, spars with council members

A committee narrowly passed the proposal that would allow the MPD to contract with other agencies to curb violence.

Surging violent crimes in Minneapolis this year has Police Chief Medaria Arradondo seeking more funding so the department can partner with other agencies to "restore peace" in the city.

Arradondo, during the city's Policy and Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday afternoon, said this year the city has had 74 homicides, nearly 500 people have been shot and there's been an increase in carjackings, among other violent crimes.

"Our resources are hemorrhaging, our city is bleeding and I am doing all I can to stop that bleeding," Arradondo told committee members.

Arradondo is requesting $496,800, which would come out of the city's general fund, so the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) can partner with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Metro Transit Police on a citywide joint-enforcement initiative to "try to stop the bleeding," he said. 

The plan would be to contract with the other agencies to bring in 20 to 40 officers to work full-time from Nov. 15-Dec. 31, specifically during times the MPD sees high call volumes, Arradondo said, noting a contract hasn't been finalized but the additional staff would likely be available to answer 911 calls and help combat violence in hot spot areas.

This comes as the MPD has seen a record number of attritions this year, with the department down about 150 officers, Arradondo said. In a typical year, the MPD loses 40-45 officers to resignations and retirements. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who expressed support for the chief's request during the meeting, said officer attrition has had an impact on the community, noting neighborhoods have been subjected to an increase in gun and other types of violence. 

Frey added that one of the "core functions" of city government is providing a response to someone who calls 911 – and the MPD needs to make sure it's able to respond when someone calls for help. 

Over the past several months, residents have asked city leaders to help curb violence and others have accused police of slowing their response times amid the calls to dismantle MPD in the wake of George Floyd's death.

The Policy and Government Oversight Committee approved the funding on a 7-6 vote Tuesday (it's not final yet), but not without some tense moments between Chief Arradondo and City Council members, many of whom had pledged to end the MPD following George Floyd's death on May 25.

Some council members questioned how the police chief has already spent the department's $185 million budget despite losing dozens of staff via attrition – and if $185 million wasn't enough to prevent violence, they wondered how another nearly $500,000 would help. 

"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 with any particular effectiveness or strategy, and say, 'If we just do 5% more of it, that will get us to a better place,'" Council member Steve Fletcher said. "I'm struggling to get my head around why that's a good idea."

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Fletcher said if the city approves the extra funding, "It's going to make it that much harder for us to find anything anybody's looking for in the budget – whether that's mental health responses, whether that's any of the great stuff people are talking about in violence prevention, whether that's the additional policing that apparently the chief is going to come to us for." 

Arradondo countered that he and the council could go back and forth on the budget, but "that is not stopping the bloodshed that is occurring every day in our city" and every day they go back and forth "people are dying in our city."

The chief said he's talking about what is necessary today, noting 90% of the MPD's $185 million budget goes to staff salaries and benefits so he's not "sitting on a treasure chest of an exuberant amount of money that's not being utilized."

"The city is experiencing unprecedented crime and Council member, Fletcher, if you have a suggestion of how to do it better, please let me know," said Arradondo. "If you choose, and you have every right to, if you choose to say 'no' to these victims of crime then please stand by that. I'm saying we need more resources today and right now."

Council members Jeremiah Ellison and Lisa Bender, who both voted against the funding, said it was offensive for the chief to suggest that if they don't support this proposal, they don't care about the victims. 

Ellison called it "BS" and "insincere" to frame the discussion about adding extra patrols as you either think the violence is bad enough or you don't, saying the conversation is "with over 70 homicides in our city, what is going to work?"

Ellison criticized the lack of plan or strategy to curb violence with the extra funding, saying, "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, shut up and feed the beast, put your money here, we don't have to prove anything."

Bender added that she doesn't believe this money will help stop things like the carjackings, many of which are being committed by teenagers, noting the system hasn't worked to date. 

"This money is being framed as a solution to a problem it will not solve," Bender said, adding the MPD hasn't been transparent enough about how it has spent its budget. 

Meanwhile, other members said they need to do something now to help residents. Council member Lisa Goodman, who voted in favor of the proposal, said adding more officers on the street "really matters" to many victims, noting even a handful of more officers means 911 calls will be responded to faster. 

“This is not an either-or decision,” said Goodman. “This is a both-and decision. We need to solve the systemic problems with policing in our community as do every other city council around the country. We need to develop violence interruption and violence prevention plans, we need to stop using words like ‘abolish’ and ‘defund,' but we also need to stop using words like 'reform' we probably need to see policing a completely different way. 

"But until then, life goes on, crime is committed and people are afraid, Goodman added. "And having a few extra feet on the street will make a difference to a whole number of people." 

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Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins agreed, saying putting more officers on the street won't solve all of the crimes, but it will "provide a sense of action that we are taking as a city to deal with this really heartbreaking increase in crime that is occurring in our city."

This wouldn't be the first time the MPD has used a mutual aid agreement similar to this proposal. In 2014, the MPD teamed up with the sheriff's office, Minnesota State Patrol and Metro Transit to address a surge in violent crime north Minneapolis, Arradondo said. The sheriff and Metro Transit are also working in downtown to help control drag racing, Goodman noted. 

This contract and funding for the MPD isn't finalized yet. The Minneapolis City Council will likely hold a final vote during its meeting Friday morning.

If approved, the joint enforcement team would run from Nov. 15-Dec. 31, city documents show.

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