Minneapolis Police Department faces layoffs

Under the 2010 budget approved Monday, the MPD faces a $5.3 million budget cut.

Raghav Mehta

While the Minneapolis City CouncilâÄôs newly approved 2010 budget spared the division responsible for investigating civil rights complaints in the city, the Minneapolis Police Department was not as fortunate. Up to 25 police officers could be laid off as a result of budget cuts, raising concerns about public safety for Minneapolis residents. The policeâÄôs budget of about $131 million will be cut by $5.3 million under the plan, which was passed Monday by the City Council. MPD spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer said the department has until next week to decide where to cut, and no final decisions have been made yet. Of the expected layoffs, about 19 would be recruits still enrolled in the departmentâÄôs training academy. The police department currently staffs 800 sworn-in officers and 300 civilian employees. It is unclear how the cuts will affect crime rates in the city, which had been decreasing over the past few years. According to 2008 statistics from the city, violent crimes fell by 24 percent from 2006 levels. Russom Solomon, chairman of the West Bank Community CoalitionâÄôs Safety Committee, said he opposed the cuts and expressed concerns they would have adverse affects on the Cedar-Riverside area that he thinks needs more police presence, not less. While the cuts have some worried, Ward 6 Councilman Robert Lilligren said a number of policy directions to bolster police efficiency have been included to compensate for job losses. He also said the police department could be restructured to limit the number of patrol officers coming off the street as a result of the layoffs. The budget also extends the Community Crime Prevention program, which hires specialists to work with residents by forming neighborhood watch groups and offering home security and personal safety workshops âÄî something Lilligren said could offset the decrease in police presence. Solomon said prevention specialists have been attending West Bank Community Coalition meetings and working closely with members of the community to improve safety. âÄúThey have been very, very helpful,âÄù Solomon said. âÄúThey are the people who really interact with the community and really know what goes on.âÄù