The Potluck

Minneapolis police overtime explodes due to staffing shortage

By: - October 18, 2021 4:00 pm

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo details the city’s preparations for the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The Minneapolis Police Department has spent about $3 million more than budgeted on overtime this year, with about half due to a staffing shortage, the department’s finance director said Monday.

The department expects to spend up to $11.8 million on overtime by the end of the year, according to city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie.

That’s twice the percentage attributed to staffing shortages last year, according to data given to the Minneapolis City Council by Police Department Finance Director Robin McPherson.

McPherson said the city will continue to incur heavy overtime until its staffing gets to a “more manageable” level.

Overall, however, the police department is projected to come in $5 million under budget by year’s end because of an exodus of officers following the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests and riots.

Since January 2020, 296 Minneapolis police officers have separated from the city, according to MPD.

“That is a staggering number and we cannot afford it to continue,” McPherson told the council during a budget briefing.

An average of 808 sworn full-time employees worked for MPD the first three quarters of last year, compared to 615 this year. MPD racked up 120,000 overtime hours during that time frame last year, compared to 160,000 this year.

Last year, the department attributed 30,000 of the overtime hours to staffing shortages, compared to 80,000 this year. In 2020, MPD had 888 sworn officers budgeted; in 2021, 749, and next year Frey budgets 756.

To try to grapple with millions of dollars in workers’ compensation claims — most coming from the Third Precinct, where George Floyd was killed by police — and hiring and training costs, MPD also wants to start a wellness program for officers.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the loss of 131 patrol officers is the equivalent of losing staffing for an entire precinct, “so we are seeing the impacts of that.”

He eliminated foot patrols, three of five community response teams, a Safe Streets Task Force and gang interdiction team. He said the department is operating “one-dimensionally” — just responding to violent crimes and property crimes in progress.

Mayor Jacob Frey is proposing a $192 million MPD budget that is a nearly $28 million, or 17%, increase over the 2021 budget — although it’s still smaller than the 2020 police budget. Due to revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic, the city made across-the-board budget cuts.

The increase in Frey’s proposed police budget for 2022 is driven primarily by salary increases, a $1.9 million increase to continue health insurance for officers getting duty disability retirements and a $6.7 million increase for workers’ compensation costs.

Council President Lisa Bender asked if there were any savings from the exodus of officers, and McPherson said about $13 million was saved this year, although the city spent about $5.8 million on unbudgeted “court proceedings” and about $3 million on overtime.

This story was updated at 12:42 p.m. Tuesday to correct the amount of money spent on overtime. 

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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.