By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A WCCO report has put a spotlight on the debate over policing in the state’s largest city.

It took just one night for our cameras to capture Minneapolis Police outnumbered by calls for help, while fighting gang and gun violence.

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But is it proof we need more cops? Or proof the current system isn’t working?

Riding with Sgt. Andrew Schroeder on the north side allowed WCCO a unique look at protecting a city that is under siege by gunfire. No time for breaks, no time for proactive police work — only responding to shots fired and other crimes.

“Calls just exploded. So there’s domestics that have been pending for an hour and a half,” Schroeder said. “So it’s kind of like a moving little gun battle is what this seems.”

Voters will decide in 12 days whether or not the city’s charter will be amended to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.

Fifth Ward City Council candidate Cathy Spann is opposed to the amendment, is one of eight residents who sued the city of Minneapolis for not having enough officers.

“We don’t have enough protection and we’re in a crisis,” Spann said.

She says our ride along shared the truth about the war zone northsiders live in. She’s concerned if the ballot question about policing passes, things will get worse.

”That means you don’t have to have a police department, they will create a department of public safety,” Spann said. “You don’t need to have a certain amount of police officers.”

Yes4Minneapolis campaign manager Corenia Smith says voters must decide if an armed response is needed going forward.

(credit: CBS)

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“We know that the city’s current approach to policing is not working. It’s not working right now for police because they can’t be experts in everything. It’s unfair to them and it’s unfair to our residents,” Smith said.

We asked Smith what will happen if the initiative passes.

“The mayor and the city council will nominate and appoint an interim commissioner over the department of public safety. That is what will take place over the first 30 days. From there, the police department will continue the day-to-day response until the department of public safety is actually fully operational,” Smith said.

Officers out on the street say their numbers need to increase to handle this surge in crime, and Mayor Jacob Frey agrees.

“We have fewer officers per capita than just about any major city in the whole country,” Frey said.

He believes reform, not replace, is the way to go.

“Get serious about reform, get more community-minded officers into our department and then get the wrong officers out,” he said. “I think that’s what people throughout our city, throughout our region are calling for right now. They don’t want magic-wand solutions, they want the truth.”

What people in the path of gunfire want to know is what is being done now to stop the bullets from hurting and killing people. Frey says more and better police officers are needed, and he’s funded an alternative response at record levels to make sure the city has safety beyond policing.

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Kate Knuth gave this statement Thursday regarding WCCO’s ride along:

I watched WCCO’s story and I thank Sgt. Schroeder for his service. This report further illustrates how Mayor Frey’s mismanagement of the police department has failed to keep people in our city safe.

It’s also more proof that the status quo of public safety, which Jacob Frey keeps defending, is broken. Even if the department were at full strength, they still wouldn’t have enough time to respond to every call. That’s why a comprehensive Department of Public Safety is the solution: it will allow cops to focus on getting the most violent offenders off our streets, which is where we need them most while freeing officers up from having to respond to lower-intensity, non-violent calls where an armed response isn’t necessary.

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Unlike Jacob Frey, who’s flip-flopped this issue like so many others, I’ve always been for the Department of Public Safety. And when I’m Mayor, that department will include armed police officers at current levels of budgeting which is more officers than currently serving on the force.

Reg Chapman