MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Police Department has lost nearly 300 officers since last year as violent crime surges in the city, depleting resources to respond adequately, Chief Medaria Arradondo told the city council Monday.

In a budget presentation seeking $27 million more in funding for the department in 2022, Arradondo said there are 598 active sworn officers this year compared to 853 in 2019. The budget proposal calls for increased funding to rebuild core services.

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The patrol bureau, tasked with responding to 911 calls, has lost 131 officers — which Arradondo says is the staffing equivalent of an entire precinct.

“That is the lowest number that I have ever recalled in my 30-plus years of being with the Minneapolis Police Department,” he said of the just over 300 in patrol answering calls for emergencies.

Overtime hours due to staffing shortages has doubled since last year, finance director Robin McPherson told the council. The department also eliminated several units, like some community response teams and those focused on gangs and weapons.

“We are right now operating very much one dimensionally, ensuring that we have enough officers to respond to violent crimes as well as property crimes that may be in progress,” Arradondo said.

Chief Medaria Arradondo (credit: CBS)

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The attrition in MPD comes as violent crime is spiking in the city. From Jan. 1 to just last week, there were 75 homicides, which is up more than 114% compared to the same time in 2019. Gunshot wound victims have soared 138% in that same period to 530. Robbery, arson and aggravated assault crimes have also increased, according to data shared by the department.

There is a face behind every statistic, and 87% of those impacted are people of color.

“Obviously we are failing these communities, and we should put all of our attention and all of our work behind this,” said Council Member Jamal Osman of Ward 6.

Arradondo called this trend a crisis that is “unconscionable,” but added that it “hasn’t changed in 30 years” since he’s been in the department.

“From a public safety standpoint and certainly as chief. I will tell you what is not acceptable is to have any more reductions right now in our sworn capacity to be responding to the incidents of gun violence, the incidence of carjackings and homicides that have occurred in our city,” he said.

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The budget discussion is almost exactly two weeks from the city’s election that will decide the fate of the police department as it is known today. There is a ballot proposal that, if approved by voters, would remove the police department from the city charter replace it with a department of public safety. It’s a move that proponents say is a comprehensive public health approach to public safety.

Caroline Cummings