Late last year, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo asked the City Council to approve and fund adding 20 to 40 outside officers to the force to fight an uptick in crime. At the time, they argued that they needed the additional person power immediately because of a significant rise in crime across the city and a wave of officer departures.
But as the Star Tribune reported last week, even though the nearly $500,000 in funding was approved, the plan never took shape — despite city officials describing the crime problem as a dire one that required additional staff "right now." That failure raises questions about whether the department was organized about what it wanted and needed before making the request.
Frey and Arradondo requested and received $496,800 to set up agreements with Metro Transit police and the Hennepin County Sheriff's office for additional help from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31.
Metro Transit reportedly said it didn't have the capacity to assist. And city and county attorneys are reportedly still trying to work out details of a contract with the Sheriff's Department. But deadlines for using the funds have passed, meaning that city officials would have to go back for council approval to receive the additional funding.
The original request was approved in a 7-6 vote, with several dissenters strongly opposed. It likely would not be an easy task to go back to council members — several of whom are committed to defunding and reducing the ranks of sworn officers — to get additional funds.
In the past, Minneapolis police chiefs have had more independence to work with city attorneys to enter into aid agreements with other agencies. However, this one required council approval because extra funding was coming from a contingency fund. MPD and the city have used what are called Joint Enforcement Teams in the past, including in 2014 to combat a violent crime wave on the North Side.
Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson confirmed to an editorial writer that his office and the city are continuing to discuss possible contract terms. He added that "contract or no contract," his department will continue to assist MPD as well as other communities in the county "to the best of our ability."
Hutchinson said he is confident that his deputies will have a "bigger presence" in Minneapolis to help improve public safety. His department has helped Minneapolis for several years as part of the violent-offender task force — an effort that helped recover 200 guns during 2020. And more recently sheriff's deputies worked with MPD to arrest some of those involved in the rash of violent carjackings in the city.
That collaborative effort raises another question: If MPD is already getting the necessary help from at least one outside agency, is the additional funding needed?
As they continue to discuss the road ahead for MPD, Frey, Arradondo and the City Council must answer that and other critical questions while also maintaining their focus on making Minneapolis a safer city for all residents, workers and visitors.