Minneapolis City Council approves contract for organizations to pay for extra police

The buy back contract will allow private organizations to hire off-duty MPD officers to patrol areas.

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Ava Kian

A police vehicle sits in a parking lot in Minneapolis on Thursday, Feb. 3.

by Hanna Van Den Einde

Minneapolis City Council approved a $210,000 buyback contract for the Minneapolis Safety Initiative on Jan. 27, allowing organizations to hire off-duty officers for safety measures, such as extra patrolling, in their area.

Some council members said they worry that the contract will create a barrier for neighborhoods that cannot afford the extra off-duty patrols and unequally benefit the wealthier neighborhoods.

The contract will allow organizations, such as local neighborhood or business associations, to commission officers and have extra patrols in their area. The purpose of the program is to increase police visibility in areas that request it.

The program costs $107 per hour per officer and is paid by the organizations, rather than the city. The officers in the program are off-duty and will be picking up overtime shifts and working voluntarily, meaning there is not a guarantee the hours will be picked up.

Organizations can request to contract officers through their precinct commander. The decision to approve contract officers will go through the precinct inspector and the assistant chief.

A.J. Awed, executive director for policy and programs at the Cedar Riverside Community Council, said although the contract could be good for neighborhoods that can afford the extra patrols, it could affect areas that can’t afford it in the long run.

“If you just happen to be in a community that doesn’t have the economic capacity or capital to be able to lobby the city to actually patrol and bring security and safety to your neighborhood, you’re out of luck,” Awed said.

Awed said he believes the city is setting a bad precedent by passing this contract.

“[It’s] pretty much dividing the city between those [who can pay and those who cannot], especially when it comes to the issue of safety, which just does not feel right,” Awed said.

Minneapolis Police Department’s primary responsibility is 911 calls, so if the police department is short staffed or cannot fill the response with overtime or other precincts, they will pull officers from the buyback program.

The Minneapolis City Council approved the buyback contract with a 12-1 vote. Ward 2 City Council Member Robin Wonsley Worlobah was the only Council member who voted against the contract.

Despite voting for the program at an earlier committee meeting, Wonsley Worlobah said concerns were raised by her and other Council members at the meeting which led her to decide to vote against the contract.

“In a time where we are so focused on providing a quality and equitable model of public safety to all of our residents, I think we need to be very clear in which initiatives we’re supporting,” Wonsley Worlobah said.

Wonsley Worlobah also said she opposed the buy back program because it could give communities with more resources preference to extra patrolling, making it an unequal safety service. This could then impact an area’s quality of public service.

While Ward 1 City Council Member Elliott Payne voted to approve the contract, he also voiced concerns over the transparency of it and how overtime hours will be spent.

“I don’t like the concept of private dollars having any say in our public safety apparatus,” Payne said. “There have been some reassurances that those private dollars don’t dictate what time an officer does a patrol.”

Payne said while he was hesitant to approve the contract, he decided to vote for it because he would rather address the root of private money being spent in public safety than look at this singular issue.