The Potluck

Downtown Minneapolis neighborhood raises money for more police patrols

By: - June 10, 2022 6:00 am

A Minneapolis police squad car in front of the burned out Third Precinct police station blocks off Minneahaha Avenue for a street festival in October 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

An upscale downtown Minneapolis neighborhood is raising money to pay the city to do additional police patrols.

Dozens of residents from the Mill District met with a Minneapolis police lieutenant and sergeant last week about doing more summer police patrols through a city “buyback” program in which neighborhoods or organizations can pay for extra patrols. Another upscale neighborhood west of downtown, Lowry Hill, pooled money to buy more policing earlier this year. 

The arrangement must be approved by the Minneapolis City Council. Some members questioned the wisdom of the Lowry Hill arrangement, given the Minneapolis Police Department’s staffing shortage, burnout and large numbers of officers seeking workers’ compensation and duty disability retirements. 

Some council members also questioned the use of private dollars to direct police resources to upscale neighborhoods, which can make it seem like rich people can buy better public safety than their less affluent fellow citizens. 

The program is voluntary for officers, so the department isn’t required to assign the patrols. 

Some Mill District residents questioned the need for extra patrols, with one woman noting that crime is much lower there than in the rest of the city.

Minneapolis Police Lt. Kelly O’Rourke, who was there to answer questions, said the city has gone from 170 shootings per year to more than 600 the past two years.

Pamela McCrea, president of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, said people aren’t moving into the neighborhood the way they used to.

One resident questioned whether they should hire Minneapolis Police officers, given the recent state report concluding MPD has a pattern of race discrimination.

McCrea defended MPD, saying there have been some “bad apples” in MPD, but not the two officers who were at the meeting, Sgt. Adam Lewis and O’Rourke.

“They’re stepping up to help demonstrate what community policing is,” she said. “It’s what we want to get back to.”

O’Rourke, patrol supervisor of the First Precinct, told the group most officers are working overtime, and only a dozen cops now patrol downtown on weekend night shifts, from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.

“We used to do that with 60,” he said.

Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville is helping organize the fundraising, having started a similar policing project in northeast Minneapolis 22 years ago.

The buyback program has been around for more than two decades, and has been used by everyone from the Timberwolves to marathon organizers to neighborhood associations to beef up policing for $107 per hour per officer. Officers volunteer to do the work if they’re not scheduled elsewhere.

A website about the Mill District Public Safety Project says Rainville proposed the project to improve community relations with the police department. He would like to return beat cops to main downtown corridors, such as East Hennepin, the Mill District, North Loop, Dinkytown and West Broadway and Lake Street.

Rainville was critical of state lawmakers for not being able to agree on legislation to hire and retain police officers, and provide money for the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention.

Lewis said they would recruit as many officers as they could to patrol the area from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

The initial goal is to raise $25,000 — enough to pay for extra patrols from June through September. It would cost $100,000 to have extra patrols for the rest of the year from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Cops would cover an area from 13th Avenue South to Second Avenue South to the Caryle at 100 Third Ave. S and from the Mississippi River to Washington Avenue.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.