Minneapolis narrowly approves hiring outside police officers amid spike in crime

    Minneapolis City Hall. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

    The Minneapolis City Council narrowly approved Police Chief Medaria Arradondo’s request for an additional $500,000 to bring in officers from other law enforcement agencies amid an exodus from the force and a spike in violent crime around the city.

    The proposal split the council 7-6 as it confronts a surge in gun violence that has wounded nearly 500 people, while also seeking to reform a department which a majority of the council vowed to defund and replace with a new public safety department.

    The resolution passed the City Council without discussion on Friday after a heated debate earlier this week, with several council members demanding the chief explain how the additional 20-40 officers will be used to curb violence.

    “What we’re asking for is if this is the half-million that’s going to get us over the hump, when the first $184 million was not it, then what’s the strategy?” Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said. “No strategy. No plan. Shut up and pay us.”

    Arradondo declined to go into specifics on strategy, but said the additional officers from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department and the Metro Transit Police Department were needed to answer 911 calls and address crime.

    “We can talk about reimagining policing. I’m talking about what is necessary today in this city. And we need the extra resources,” Arradondo said. “This is not the platform to start drilling down on a specific strategy.”

    Since the police killing of George Floyd in May and the riots and protests that followed, the city has been under intense pressure to reform its department. At the same time, more than 100 police officers have left the force, new recruits are in short supply and more than 70 people have been killed this year.

    The standoff over the emergency funding request sets up what will be a contentious budgeting process between a city council that’s often at odds with Mayor Jacob Frey over policing. The mayor has full authority over the Police Department, meaning the budget is the strongest lever the council has to force reform at the moment.

    While scrutinizing next year’s police budget, City Council President Lisa Bender says the council also plans to move forward with a ballot initiative next year that would give the council more control over public safety and replace the Police Department with a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

    At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Frey pushed back against council members who questioned the chief’s request for more money.

    “Our chief has clearly stated that it will help. He has said he does not have the resources right now to properly respond to 911 calls,” Frey said. “I think we need to be giving our chief the necessary respect … You can’t go off on staff when you don’t like their recommendations.”

    Voting to approve the funding were Council Members Kevin Reich, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman, Alondra Cano, Andrew Johnson and Andrea Jenkins; the latter three voted yes despite pledging earlier this summer to reimagine policing.

    Voting against were Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham, Jeremiah Ellison, Cam Gordan, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder.

    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.