MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – St. Paul city leaders must decide whether to cut police officers positions during a time when shootings in the capital city are on the rise.

On Wednesday, Police Chief Todd Axtell presented the council with hard data he believes supports his position to not shrink the department by five officers.

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“Our officers, in fact, are busier than ever before in the history of the city of St. Paul,” Chief Todd Axtell said.

Flanked by officers and residents who support his cause and others who want city dollars to go to programming and intervention, Chief Todd Axtell made his plea for more resources for his department.

“Cutting police officers is absolutely not in the best interest of the city of St. Paul,” Chief Todd Axtell explained.

Chief Axtell says officers are answering 700 calls a day, that’s a call every two minutes.

“From July of 18 to August of this year there were 7,162 times we did not have an officer to dispatch,” Chief Axtell said. “That’s more than 7,000 people who had to wait longer than they should have for help.”

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Chief Axtell says officers are working overtime to try and answer calls for help.

Last year officers racked up $1.9 million in overtime, this year so far, $1.6 million has been spent.

“The core causes of crime are poverty, inequality, unemployment, despair. So if we want to make our city safer before anyone ever calls 911, addressing those underlying causes will require after school programs, will require summer programs,” Mayor Melvin Carter said.

Mayor Carter says his proposed budget reduces the number of sworn officers by five but it continues to invest in the department.

“My budget proposal adds $4.5 million to our police department’s annual budget from this year to next year and I heard our chief say it will lead to the highest number of actual police officers in the department ever,” Mayor Carter said.

City leaders want a staffing study down to see how the department can put more sworn officers on the street.

Chief Axtell says that study should be completed by year’s end.

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St. Paul City Council says it wants to hold a public forum on the issue of the budget in the near future before decided what dollars go where.

Reg Chapman