Minneapolis City Council approves funding for additional police officers

The more than $1.3 million investment will fund the hiring of 15 officers, three of which are for a mental health co-responder pilot program.

After approval by the city council, the Minneapolis Police Department is adding more police officers, which has been met with mixed reactions.

The Minneapolis City Council approved $1.3 million in its 2017 budget on Wednesday to create 15 new police officers positions — 12 for community patrolling and three that will work with health professionals to respond to calls concerning mental health.

While city officials and police representatives say they’re happy about the increase, advocates are concerned about transparency.

Ward 6 City Council Member Abdi Warsame said he supported the city’s investment because neighborhoods in his ward are often under-policed.

“The perception of crime and lack of safety has been an ongoing issue that we have been grappling with,” he said.

Neighborhood organizations raised concern with him over public safety, Warsame said, as well as a rise in shooting incidents.

The Chicago-Franklin intersection and Ventura Village neighborhoods are key areas that require more policing, he said.

Warsame said it’s important for his residents to feel safe because he wants them to have the same quality of life as those who live in more affluent areas of the city.

“Yes, we do need to have a better relationship between the community and the police. Yes, we do need to invest in alternatives, but we also need to make sure that our streets are safe,” he said.

Still, some advocates are convinced that adding officers will do little to alleviate public safety issues.

“It’s been proven that the department clearly isn’t even accountable to the city, let alone anybody else,” said Tony Williams, organizer for Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. “Investing more money into the department at this time seems … really reckless.”

He said he would’ve rather seen the funding allocated toward alternatives such as mitigating racial disparities in income and investing in the city’s small businesses.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said she wanted more funding to go toward accountability measures instead.

“[The police funding] shows that they don’t have actual interest in holding police accountable,” she said.

The city’s Office of Police Conduct Review has been inadequate in its handling of officer complaints, Gross said.

With funding, she said the Office of Police Conduct Review could’ve been disbanded in favor of a civilian review committee. This would save the city money because the number of lawsuits would decrease, she said.

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of Minneapolis’ police union, said he’s happy there will be more officers but doesn’t think the city’s investment is enough.

The 15 new officers will bring the city’s officer count up to 877, he said, but that still is lower than the 940 officers Minneapolis had a decade ago.

Having fewer police officers patrolling the streets than in the past means officers are overworked, Kroll said.

“They’re running overtime in all the precincts constantly to sufficiently staff,” he said.