MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Police Department is seeking $5 million from Minneapolis City Council to cover overtime costs, as the department grapples with a depleted sworn force down more than 200 active officers from one year ago.

In a presentation to the city council’s public safety committee Thursday, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo made the funding request to help cover some of what the department projected to be $9.5 million in total overtime costs this year. The council reserved money in a special staffing account to have more oversight over police funding, and tapping into it requires approval.

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“MPD estimates the full amount of the reserve at $5 million will be needed to meet the overtime demands in 2021,” Arradondo said.

Overtime during ex-MPD officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial for the killing of George Floyd last spring totaled $2.9 million, though the police department did not factor that into its proposal for city council, according to documents.

The calculation of an additional $5 million — on top of $3.5 million already appropriated for overtime costs during this budget year — is based on the city’s reduced police force, Arradondo said.

His department was down to active 632 officers through the end of May, a 25% drop from the 845 he had in 2020. Currently, 60 officers are on disability leave.

“I really would love to be able to say that our leaves have decreased, and they have, but they haven’t stopped,” said Robin McPherson, finance director for the department.

 

Chief Medaria Arradondo (credit: CBS)

The reduced capacity has forced the department to get creative to free up as many resources as they can, Arradondo said, when asked about the request during the Thursday meeting.

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“Over the past year, we’ve collapsed and decommissioned units that we had had previously,” he said. “We’ll continue to keep looking at the organization as we are dealing with the staffing challenges.”

Council member Steve Fletcher pointed to studies that suggest working long hours can impair police officers’ judgements and increase use-of-force incidents. He asked what the council is doing to ensure there is still accountability, and de-escalation goals of the department are still enacted.

“I just want to make sure that de-escalation is still the framework we’re operating in and recognize that use of force has been higher in the data,” Fletcher said. “It’s worth making sure that we’re thinking about that.”

There have been 620 use-of-force incidents reported so far this year, according to department data. Deputy Chief Erick Fors responded that de-escalation tactics are still the goal, and that some of the uptick in use-of-force data is due to a change in what kind of incidents are now reported and counted, like handcuffing, for example.

“We would rather not rely on overtime to fill gaps. We would much rather not have that. It’s not the ideal long-term tool to do anything with,” Fors said. “If we’re seeing increases because we’re being more stringent and we’re being better about reporting our force, that might be, in some ways, not a bad thing if we’re seeing better accountability.”

This comes against a backdrop of an uptick in crime in the city. Fors told the committee that the number of gunshot victims has more than doubled from this point last year to this year, increasing from 116 to 259. Homicides have increased by 81% over the same time period.

And he said violent crime demands resources. A single shooting at its peak uses 10 police unit resources within the first 30 to 45 minutes.

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“These calls do take an awful lot of resources to respond to, and that that hampers our ability to respond to other calls for service,” Fors said.

Caroline Cummings