The Minneapolis Police Department, hit with a wave of retirements and resignations since the murder of George Floyd, can no longer provide enough off-duty officers to work Minnesota Vikings games and major concerts at U.S. Bank Stadium.
So on Wednesday, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority received the green light to negotiate with law enforcement agencies outside of Minneapolis police and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office to handle stadium security.
At the MSFA's regular monthly meeting, Chair Michael Vekich requested authority to enter into new joint powers agreements with other law enforcement agencies. The board approved the proposal on a voice vote.
The joint powers agreement will give designated law enforcement departments jurisdiction at the stadium for Vikings games. Once a new agreement is negotiated by the MSFA, then ASM Global — which oversees security in the building — can negotiate contracts with other law enforcement agencies.
In an interview, Vekich did not indicate which law enforcement agencies the MSFA might seek to partner with for games and events.
"We're struggling to get staffing," said Minneapolis police Cmdr. Charlie Adams, who runs the off-duty security operation at U.S. Bank Stadium for Vikings games.
Adams has coordinated the hiring of off-duty law enforcement officers since the stadium opened for the 2016 Vikings season.
Early on, Adams said, more than 100 off-duty Minneapolis cops were hired to work the games. In the years since, that number had declined to about 70 off-duty officers.
Since 2020, he said, they haven't been able to hire enough cops. So Adams hired Hennepin County sheriff's deputies to reach the numbers needed for games.
Minneapolis police ranks have dwindled since four former officers murdered George Floyd in May 2020. After days of violent unrest following Floyd's murder, during which the Third Precinct headquarters was torched by protesters, there's been an exodus of police officers.
Some have left with PTSD diagnoses and payouts, while others have sought work elsewhere. Before Floyd was killed in south Minneapolis, the department had almost 900 sworn officers. The number is now at about 600, and they're stretched to fulfill their regular duties let alone optional off-duty work.
Adams estimated that 90% of the Minneapolis officers he regularly hired to work games two years ago are no longer with the department.
With police numbers declining in 2020, Adams said he began using sheriff's deputies to escort the visiting NFL team. There were a minimal number of fans at games that season due to COVID-19 restrictions.
During the 2021 Vikings season, Hennepin County sheriff's deputies comprised about half of off-duty law enforcement that worked games, Adams said. But he's worried about this season.
"Last year we did OK," Adams said. "This year, I don't think we have the numbers."
Fewer cops also means more competition for their off-duty time as well. "Whoever can afford to pay the higher rate, they're getting the officers," Adams said.
At U.S. Bank Stadium, officers earn $80 an hour for off-duty work. But they can earn even more elsewhere, Adams noted.
The stadium has multiple major events in August, including a Kenny Chesney concert that was postponed during the pandemic. The Vikings play their first home preseason game on Aug. 20 and open their home season on Sept. 11 when they host the Green Bay Packers.
In a statement, the Vikings said the safety of fans is a priority and the organization appreciates the new agreement.
"When you get 60,000 people in the stadium, you have to have law enforcement there," Adams said.