St. Paul mayor turns down police request for 50 more officers

Melvin Carter made his statement on Facebook Friday.
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St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter took to Facebook to reveal why he's turning down a request from police chief Todd Axtell for 50 more officers in the city.

Axtell had told the Pioneer Press he wants the officers over the next two years, citing rising population and 911 calls as the reasons.

But Mayor Carter, who ran on a ticket of pushing for police reform, said he doesn't believe that hiring more police officers is the answer to crime in the city.

"The philosophy that more police officers, tougher prosecutors, and bigger jails equal a safer city has failed," he wrote. 

"Our driving goal shouldn't be to hire as many officers as possible but to reduce the number of times we have to call police in the first place.

"The City currently spends three times more on police and fire services than on recreation centers and libraries. As long as we focus more on responding to emergencies than on preventing them in the first place, we’ll never have enough police officers."

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He continues to say that his office's policy is "community-first public safety," which instead invests in neighborhood resources "that connect children and families to opportunity."

Community-first, he says, should also be the core focus at the heart of policing in the city.

"Community engagement isn't simply a temporary assignment for rookie officers, nor an add-on for after we've hired 50 new officers; it must be the underlying culture of our entire police department - every day, every officer," he says.

Axtell's request came after a year of rising crime in St. Paul, with homicide, rape, thefts and arson all up in 2017 compared to the year before, while burglary, assault and robbery were down slightly.

City police did have some success in solving the crimes however, with arrests for homicide, aggravated assault and theft all up, though arson, rape and motor vehicle theft arrests were all down.

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