The plan to disband the Minneapolis police force has hit a snag. The the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 10-5 to keep the issue off the ballot this November. So, officially, the police aren’t going anywhere this year. But that doesn’t mean the city isn’t facing a serious shortage of officers in the coming months.
Last month the Washington Post reported that as many as 150 officers were planning to file disability claims saying they had PTSD from their time on the streets in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Last week the Star Tribune reported that, unofficially as many as a third of the entire force could be gone by the end of the year:
Over the past two months, 40 cops have resigned, been fired or are in the process of leaving the force, and another 75 have taken a medical leave for post-traumatic stress disorder they say was caused by the riots that followed Floyd’s death. Dozens more are expected to file for leave in the coming months.
MPD officials not authorized to speak publicly estimate the department, which is budgeted for 888 officers this year, could lose as much as a third of its workforce by the end of the year.
The shortages highlight the challenge facing the city’s beleaguered police force as it faces calls for its defunding, or even abolishment.
Residents say that police are taking longer to respond to emergency calls, even as homicides, shootings and robberies have all increased by double digits from last year.
Because of action already taken by the city to cut the police budget there’s no hope of restaffing those lost officers any time soon:
The decreased staffing levels among the MPD’s five precincts is a dilemma for the department, as it grapples with COVID-related budget cuts and sinking officer morale. For instance, a recent Monday night found just six officers patrolling the 14.5 square miles of the Third Precinct, according to MPD officials…
The deployment picture has worsened as the department tries to dig itself out of the budgetary hole it’s been in since the COVID-19 pandemic struck. While a recent class of recruits hit the streets last month, another class that was scheduled to start training in August has been canceled. And with a citywide hiring freeze in effect until at least the end of the year, there are no replacements in sight.
For every officer that leaves, that means more work for those left behind in a department that expects to face further cuts in the future. It’s a worst case scenario for morale and all of this is happening in the midst of a fresh wave of violent crime. Here’s a graph showing the increased number of shots fired this year vs. last year and the decreasing police response. Bottom line: Police are trying to avoid using force and criminals are taking advantage of that lull in enforcement.
There are secondary impacts from all of this. As the NY Times reported last week, the area where George Floyd was killed has become a no-go zone for police and local residents are very worried about the increase in violence.
Additionally, the crime and lack of sufficient policing, on top of the problems created by the coronavirus, has made downtown Minneapolis an unattractive place to try to run a business. So many businesses are now thinking about moving out.
A new survey by the Downtown Council shows 45 business owners say they are considering leaving downtown – citing the lack of people working or socializing downtown – and the idea that the police department could be dismantled.
Though they won’t say which businesses are considering pulling out of downtown, the council says one of the businesses employs 600 people.
Of course COVID has more to do with this than anything else but adding the possibility that there could be a lack of police is just one more problem that makes business owners reluctant to try and stick out an already tough situation. It’s not all that different than the situation for individual police officers. They could stick it out and hope for the best but under the circumstances, with the city council and a significant portion of the population looking to disband them and violent crime on the rise, why would they?