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MPD prioritizing recruits who live in Minneapolis, have social service experience

The city and Minneapolis Police Department announced new recruiting measures for the understaffed department.

When Minneapolis hires new recruits for the city's police department, it will focus on candidates who have social service experience and who live in Minneapolis. 

The city said in a news release Wednesday that focusing on recruits with this type of experience will help ensure the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) hires more community-minded officers and help it rebuild trust with the community.

“Having grown up in Minneapolis, I know first-hand the value of having officers who are familiar with, and deeply invested in, the communities we serve,” MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a release. “I look forward to meeting our future class of recruits and seeing the impact of these policies in action.”

The MPD has been criticized in the past for the majority of its officers not being from Minneapolis. In 2017, the Star Tribune reported only about 8% of MPD's officers live in Minneapolis. 

Some advocates have pushed for officer residency requirements or incentives, saying when police officers actually live in the city they serve it can help improve community relations because the officers have a stake in the community.

Others, including Twin Cities-based Communities United Against Police Brutality, have argued residency requirements and incentives aren't proven to affect the quality of policing. Instead, they say solid policy reforms will do more to rebuild trust.

In addition to emphasizing Minneapolis residents and those with social service experience, greater weight will be given to candidates with volunteer experience and educational and on-the-job experience in social services, mental health work, substance use disorder counseling, as well as those with degrees in criminal justice, social work, social sciences, counseling and related fields, the release states.

It comes amid efforts by some members of the Minneapolis City Council to replace MPD with a new Public Safety Department that would put greater onus on social service and mental health expertise when responding to certain calls, rather than armed officers being used in a wide range of situations.

“Our officers take a solemn oath and accept the great responsibility of protecting and serving all Minneapolis residents when they join our department,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in a news release. “As more and more new officers join our department, we are doubling down on our commitment to attracting high-caliber individuals who are ready to help build, repair and maintain community trust.”

The new recruiting measures announced Wednesday come amid a need to hire more officers for the understaffed MPD after it saw an influx of retirements and resignations over the past year. 

Currently, the MPD has about 640 officers – about 200 fewer than this time in 2019, Frey said in a Facebook post last week

“We have an opportunity to use the tools at hand to make sure community-oriented applicants are prioritized in recruitment,” Chief Human Resources Officer Patience Ferguson said. “By being transparent and specific about who we’re looking for, we hope to attract talented and compassionate candidates that share in our vision for the future of the MPD.”

The changes to the department's recruiting priorities will begin with the MPD's recruitment for its summer class, with job postings expected later this month. 

This is the latest in a slew of policy changes in the city's effort to rebuild trust with Minneapolis residents, especially those of color, following another police killing. 

George Floyd's death last May amplified calls for change, and Frey and Arradondo vowed to reform MPD policies. In the weeks after his death, the city banned chokeholds and made other immediate changes. They've overhauled the use-of-force policy and revised the body camera policy so officers are prohibited from turning off their cameras when on the scene.

Meanwhile, last summer, the Minnesota Legislature passed a police accountability package that includes allowing cities and departments to offer incentives to officers to live in the community they serve, as well as changes to police training and use-of-force policies. 

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