Data: A slower, less proactive Minneapolis Police Department since George Floyd killing

Minneapolis Police guard the third precinct on May 27, before it was taken over by rioters. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The Minneapolis Police Department has been slower to respond to calls this summer than last summer, according to data obtained through a Reformer public records request.   

MPD’s strategic analysis group compared response times of high-priority calls in 2019 and 2020 during three time periods: one before the police killing of George Floyd, and two after. The analysis focused on the most urgent emergencies, with the potential loss of life or an imminent threat to personal safety or the loss or damage to property. 

Before Floyd’s death, from April 27 to May 24, response times for the high-priority calls were slightly faster than during the same period last year. 

But from June 9 to July 6, response times slowed 1.56 minutes from when a call was assigned to a squad until the squad arrived, and slowed 3.86 minutes from when a call was entered into the queue until a squad arrived, meaning callers were waiting longer for a squad to become available to respond. That was the most significant difference in response times found in the analysis.

The city’s goal is to get a squad en route within 30 seconds of receipt by the dispatcher for high priority, potential loss-of-life calls and 70 seconds for the next level emergency.

The data is sure to draw further scrutiny of the embattled Minneapolis Police Department, which became an international symbol of reckless use of force when Floyd was killed on camera after now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin ground his knee into Floyd’s neck.

During and after the protests, looting and arson that followed Floyd’s killing, many residents began reporting slow responses or no response to their calls for help, leading City Council members to openly question whether the police were deliberately pulling back. 

Council President Lisa Bender told Mayor Jacob Frey in late July she heard from a number of wards that police were telling residents some version of, “We’re not coming.”

Minneapolis Police were accused of a lackluster response after 11 people were struck by gunfire in Uptown; a lawsuit was filed accusing them of slow responses in the Phillips neighborhood; and they’ve stepped back from the area where Floyd was killed.  

Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo blamed the slower response times on an exodus of cops from the force and increased violence and gunfire that ties up officers longer. 

The city has seen a spike in violent crimes and shootings since Floyd’s death, with more homicides in the first eight months of 2020 than all of last year, 41 of them between Memorial Day — when Floyd was killed — and Labor Day. That’s a 100% increase from last summer. And, the city saw the most shootings through July in five years.

Cops making fewer stops

Though it’s unclear why, data also show Minneapolis Police are taking a less aggressive posture, at least in some cases. 

Since Floyd’s death, the majority of police responses have been due to citizen calls, rather than proactively stopping people. In the four months before the Floyd incident, 48% of Minneapolis police responses were for officer-initiated stops, and 31% in response to calls for help, such as 911 calls. 

Since Floyd died, however, nearly 64% of police work is in response to calls for help, and just 19% for officer-initiated stops, according to city statistics.

MPD spokesman John Elder said in an email that Minneapolis — like most major metropolitan cities across the country — has experienced a sharp increase in serious violent crime and calls for service, increasing demands on staff and slowing response times.

A similar situation emerged in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van in 2015, sparking protests and riots. 

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According to USA Today: “In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 … officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since.”

City Council Members Steve Fletcher, Jeremy Schroeder, Andrew Johnson, Phillipe Cunningham, Andrea Jenkins and Jeremiah Ellison all have said they were getting reports of police being unresponsive to calls. 

Frey pointed to the exodus of officers: By the end of July, 65 police officers had left the force of 850, and about 200 have applied to leave due to post-traumatic stress.

“There is an impact when there is a decline in the numbers we have on the force,” Frey told the City Council. “And that is true right now, given some of the resignations we’ve seen.”

Council members claim pullback is retribution

But some council members felt their wards were targeted because they supported defunding or restructuring the Police Department.

Council member Steve Fletcher accused police of slowing responses to his ward after he supported restructuring public safety.

Council member Phillipe Cunningham told Frey he heard from an “overwhelming number” of people in the fourth ward who got no police response to reports of gun violence. And when they asked what was taking so long, they were told to contact Cunningham. 

In other words, Cunningham contends, “It’s my fault that they are not responding in a timely manner or at all.”

Council Member Andrea Jenkins also reported hearing from constituents about a lack of response in Ward 8 near Floyd’s killing.

“They’re being told that this is called a no-go zone by MPD when they call police or when there is an emergency situation that they have to meet with the officers blocks away from where the incident is occurring. That police are not responding to their calls at all. I can’t believe it but I’m hearing it so often that it’s gotta be true.”

During the City Council meeting earlier this summer, Arradondo acknowledged there were times when the police took too long to respond, without giving specifics. He said if officers aren’t responding, that would be documented, and he hadn’t seen it outside of the barricaded Floyd memorial area at 38th and Chicago. 

Earlier this summer, Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said in an interview the data should show if police were pulling back, but all the data is generated by the police, who “will lie if they think the truth makes them look bad.” 

In a Reformer interview earlier this summer, union officials said it wasn’t a slowdown, but a “wear down.” 

“They’re getting worn out. They’ve been working non-stop with limited resources,” Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll said. 

Rich Walker, a Minneapolis Police officer and a director of the police federation, told the Reformer that the city needs to spend more on cops: “If we had enough cops, we could solve our own crimes,” Walker said. “We should be able to protect the citizens, the visitors, the tourists and the business owners ourselves. And if they gave us the appropriate amount of cops to protect our city, our city would still be thriving right now.”

(Union officials were not available for comment Monday.)

At the City Council meeting earlier this summer, Arradondo had his own response to questions about the uptick in violence. He pointed to the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Floyd case, civil unrest, recession and psychological stress. Arradondo said civil unrest is often followed by an increase in crime and violence, and there are a record number of guns in the community, with people arrested for selling high-powered guns from car trunks.

“Clearly 2020 has created some dynamics that we have never experienced before in this city,” he said.