The Potluck

Minneapolis mayor plans to address violence through boosted enforcement, officer recruitment

By: - January 5, 2022 4:22 pm

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and incoming Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman vow to address violent crime through boosted enforcement and new officer recruitment at a news conference on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and incoming Interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman say they’re increasing enforcement and focusing on recruiting new police officers to address the high rates of gun violence and armed robberies that have gripped the city for more than 18 months.

At a news conference Wednesday, Frey called the surge in homicides, shootings, carjackings and home invasions in Minneapolis and surrounding areas “garbage,” and said the city is “doing everything possible to prevent this kind of violent and criminal conduct.”

The news conference was the second the mayor has called in less than a month to highlight his efforts to address violent crime as he prepares to formally begin his second term on Thursday after one of the bloodiest years in Minneapolis and cities across the country.

More than 650 people were shot in Minneapolis in 2021 and 96 were killed, just one shy of the record set in 1995. There were more than 2,000 robberies, including more than 650 carjackings, said Huffman, who will take the helm of the department Jan. 15 following the retirement of Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Huffman said their efforts to combat crime are reflected in their response to a shooting and robbery in Bryn Mawr on Dec. 29, in which a young woman working at a convenience store was shot in the stomach and foot.

Four teenagers, one just 14 years old, are in custody and have been charged in connection with this incident by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Huffman said cooperation from city residents and video evidence, including from home security cameras, are key to identifying people and cars associated with crimes.

“As we know that many of these incidents are committed by a small group of people who are highly mobile and involved in multiple incidents, you can see that our partners are stepping up to add extra resources,” Huffman said.

The arrests made in connection with the robbery and shooting in Bryn Mawr are out of the ordinary, however.

Around 78% of shootings in Minneapolis don’t result in any arrests or charges, according to a Reformer analysis of 879 shootings between 2018 and 2020.

Asked about its low clearance rate, Huffman said shootings are the “most challenging investigations” because people who have information are unwilling to work with the police, and people involved in group violence would rather settle disputes on their own.

“One of the most important things that we do as a police department is look for ways to develop more community relationships,” Huffman said. “Clearly, that’s been very challenged over the last few years.”

But Huffman said responding to crime has only become more difficult as police officers have left the force in droves and few people are applying to take their place. Around 300 police officers are on leave or have left the force since May 2020, when there were around 900 sworn officers on the force. As of December 2021, the Minneapolis Police Department had 641 sworn officers with 41 officers on continuous leave.

Many officers have chosen to taken early retirement or have claimed PTSD from the protests and riots following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.

“We have lost capacity due to attrition in every part of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Huffman said.

Since Floyd’s death, police-community relations reached an all-time low, with members of the city council advocating for rebuilding the police department from the ground up.

Huffman said they hope to repair relationships with the community through recruiting new officers through the “Community Service Officer” program, which allows people without the minimum education requirements to work for the police department while training to become an officer.

“That is one really powerful way that we have to recruit more folks who have very deep ties and deep connections to the Minneapolis community that can help us rebuild those relationships,” Huffman said.

Huffman said they hope to hire 40 people this year through that program.

The city also has five recruitment classes that will be joining the force this year, Frey said, with about 25 officers expected in the first two classes. But the city is receiving about half as many applications for police jobs as they have in the past, Huffman said.

Frey also highlighted increasing pay as an important part of addressing recruitment challenges.

“Police officers need to get paid more and fired more,” Frey said. “They need to get paid more so that we are incentivizing the best, most talented, community-oriented officers to sign up for what is, yes, a very, very hard job.”

Frey declined to give an update on the city’s negotiations with the Minneapolis Police Federation, which represents officers, sergeants and lieutenants. Police are currently working off a contract that expired in 2019.

*This story has been updated with the most recent police attrition data.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.