Minneapolis city council: We need $5 million more for police overtime

(David Joles /Star Tribune via AP, File)

Old and busted: Abolish the police! New Minneapolis hotness: Re-fund the police — at time-and-a-half! This new tranche of funding for Minneapolis’ beleaguered police department had been anticipated last year, but it’s now become necessary. MPD needs the overtime to cover for all the police officers who left the force ever since the city council began demanding that the police force be abolished altogether:

A Minneapolis City Council committee on Thursday recommended releasing an additional $5 million to cover police overtime, a move that would offset some of the cuts it made to police funding last fall.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told council members the money would help cover a small percentage of the overtime shifts needed amid an officer shortage and costs associated with the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murdering George Floyd.

The MPD budget got cut by $14 million last year, but that was after it became obvious that the “abolish the police” pledge by the city council was going nowhere. By that time as well, a quarter of the police force had left, either through accelerated retirements, medical leave over stress, or just simply quitting for other jobs. The budget reduction had more to do with a projected serious loss in revenue from the pandemic and the riots.

At that time, however, the city council put aside the $5 million fund for OT. Arradondo had warned them that the money would be needed, thanks to the shortages, and that more would likely be necessary over that level at some point. They’ve already spent millions on OT this fiscal year:

Robin McPherson, the department’s finance director, told council members it had spent $5.2 million on police overtime this year, including $2.9 million that covered wages for Operation Safety Net, the multiagency group that coordinated security for Chauvin’s trial. McPherson estimated the department will spend $4.3 million more to cover overtime for the rest of the year.

Not much of this is a surprise, of course. The tenor of this city council meeting was, however. Suddenly the city council is talking nice:

In one of their most cordial public meetings with police officials in recent months, council members asked for more details on when new recruits might start working, how much overtime was going toward investigations vs. 911 response and how staffing would be affected by shifting some police reports to civilians.

On Monday, civilian workers in the city’s 311 office will begin taking reports for theft and property damage calls that aren’t in progress. The city is still asking people to call 911 “if the theft or property damage is occurring at the time of [the] call.”

Their sudden interest in new recruits is also remarkable, if not entirely new. As part of their mission to abolish the MPD, the city council canceled recruitment last summer. They have quietly restored funding for recruitment and training of new officers, but the momentum behind abolition probably will impede significant replacement efforts for open positions. Who wants to start working for a metropolitan police force whose own city council is trying to strangle?

Funding is easy to restore. Restoring public confidence in city leadership is much more difficult — and given the continuing lack of intestinal fortitude in dealing with George Floyd Square, Minneapolis’ leaders haven’t even begun that effort.