MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has rejected the city’s police chief’s call to hire more police officers, saying he has “concerns” about the proposal.

On Wednesday, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell addressed the city council and said he wants to add 50 new officers to the department over the next two years.

Axtell says new officers would be required to spend 6 months in community engagement after finishing the academy.

Mayor Carter wasn’t available immediately for a response, but he did issue one on Friday, rejecting the proposal.

“The philosophy that more police officers, tougher prosecutors, and bigger jails equal a safer city has failed,” he said. “Our driving goal shouldn’t be to hire as many officers as possible but to reduce the number of times we have to call police in the first place.”

Read the full statement below:

The City currently spends three times more on police and fire services than on recreation centers and libraries. As long as we focus more on responding to emergencies than on preventing them in the first place, we’ll never have enough police officers.

That’s why our Community-First Public Safety approach starts with investing in vital neighborhood resources that connect children & families to opportunity.

While I respect Chief Axtell’s advocacy and understand why he would prefer a significant increase in the number of officers he leads, I have concerns about this proposal. Community engagement isn’t simply a temporary assignment for rookie officers, nor an add-on for after we’ve hired 50 new officers; it must be the underlying culture of our entire police department – every day, every officer.

As mayor, I look forward to working with residents and the city council through our budget engagement process to balance and prioritize this request alongside competing needs across our city, including much-needed investments in our city’s streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, libraries and recreation centers.

Axtell responded to the mayor’s statement Saturday, saying: “I have a great deal of respect for Mayor Carter and I continue to support his vision for our city. The Mayor will set our budget and I will continue to lead our department to achieve our mutual goals.”

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