The challenge to policing

This article was written by Connor Cummiskey

The Minneapolis City Council met with Police Chief Arradondo to discuss the future of the Minneapolis Police Department on September 15.

A common thread of council members’ concerns was the difference in what constituents are hearing from police on the ground and what the council was hearing in reports from the police chief.

Council Members Lisa Bender and Steve Fletcher both said they heard from constituents that officers on the street told them that either there was no plan to respond to crime, or weren’t enforcing certain types of crime.

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham concurred, saying he was told by constituents that police were saying they needed more officers to do their job. 

“Last night [Sept. 14] I had yet another 17-year-old murdered in my ward,” Cunningham said, stating that at least five teenagers had recently been murdered in Ward 4.

Two people in Ward 4 have been shot inside their own homes, when they had nothing to do with the conflict, Cunningham said.

“There is a collective community trauma happening right now because of the fact that the gunfire does not stop,” Cunningham said.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department was “all hands on deck” in trying to address the gun violence. The city is approaching 400 people having been shot this year, he said.

The Fourth Precinct specifically has seen an increase in group violence, gun violence, drug sales, prostitution and reckless driving, according to Arradondo’s report.

To combat that, law enforcement is utilizing gang interdiction and community response teams, as well as cooperating with a  federal task force and community partners including MAD DADDS and Mothers Love, according to Arradondo.

Looking to the future

 Arradondo laid out some of his vision for the future of the police department. He argued that the city needed a police department and a public who trust each other.

He called the combination of high crime and a police department that lacks legitimacy a recipe for failure. To achieve that trust, he said it is going to take compromise.

“That requires me as chief to look at how I can do things differently,” Arradondo said.

However, change takes time, Arradondo said. By the time these changes come to fruition, Arradondo may not be the chief, he said.

“If our ultimate goal is to have true community safety, I will tell you right now we have to work together in that effort,” Arradondo said. “We have to be bold, we have to be courageous, we have to be vulnerable – but we have to work together in that effort.”

Cunningham pushed back against Arradondo’s argument that it will take time to change. He said constituents want to see change now, arguing that incremental change isn’t what residents want.

Part of the police chief’s vision is developing a system for analyzing why a violent incident happened. He argued that too often police departments are reactionary – they are finding crime instead of preventing it.

Arradondo referenced the National Transportation Safety Board, which evaluates the causes of transportation accidents like plane crashes.

Police staffing

Council members also asked Arradondo about the number of police officers in the force and the recent increase in departures. There are currently 535 patrol staff, with 438 of those being regular officers and the remainder are sergeants, lieutenants and inspectors.

The Minneapolis Police Department averages 40-45 officers leaving due to retirements each year, Arradondo said. This year the department has seen approximately 100 thus far, he said. Arradondo did note employees who have left due to disability or some other leave are still counted as employed.