The Minneapolis Police Department experienced a significant exodus of officers due to retirements, resignations, and disability leave following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. The department still has more than 100 officers less than its authorized strength, even though it is now two years old.
These struggles were mirrored across the countryspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>. Many officers have left the force and it has been difficult to recruit their replacements due to rising antipathy towards policing.
The Twin Cities metro area continues to face the same problems in retaining officers despite increased crime rates. As police agencies continue to increase their efforts to boost their ranks, some are taking advantage of the opportunity to diversify their force and recruiting more people of color and women.
There are many factors that influence the size of police agencies across the country. These include budget and population. For example, the Denver Police Department has nearly 1,600 officers to serve 700,000 residents. This is 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents. The Portland Police Department can accommodate nearly 1,000 officers.
The city charter of Minneapolis requires that there be 1.7 officers for every thousand residents. This ratio has not changed since 1961. Based on current population, 731 officers are required by the charter. St. Paul’s number of officers is set annually by city officials. Brooklyn Park’s council determines an amount every few year.
Minneapolis is far from meeting its statutory requirements: Minneapolis Police Department’s staffing woes are well-documented since Floyd’s murder over two years ago. This has been due to a sudden drop in officers that coincided with an increase in crime in the city. The department currently has 602 sworn police officers, with 37 on a nearly two-week leave. This is hundreds lower than the more than 900 officers who were present in May 2020.
The FBI has collected data on police staffing. Larger metro-area cities (in this analysis those with over 25,000 residents) have different staffing per capita. Five suburbs (Lakeville Maple Grove, Woodbury and Apple Valley) had the lowest staffing levels as of 2021 at 0.9 officers per 1,000 residents. According to FBI data, only two of 35 police departments had more than one officer per 1,000 residents. This includes the St. Paul Police Department which has just two officers per 1,000.
The St. Paul Police Department, despite having a higher ratio of officers and residents, has had its fair share of recruitment and retention issues. Normal attrition from retirements has coincided in a drop of students studying law enforcement, and an increase in officers who left due to posttraumatic stress. This leaves the department with fewer than 619 officers.
He said that there has been a decline in the number eligible for the job and an increase in the number retiring or leaving the workforce. “So, we have two curves that are going in opposite directions to where they should be to help us fill our need for new employees.”
Similar challenges faced smaller police departments in the surrounding suburbs.
According to Toni Weinbeck, North Precinct Inspector, Brooklyn Park Police Department saw its force shrink by 15 officers or 14% from its authorized number. While some of the losses were due to regular retirements, others left policing to pursue other careers or were cited for post-traumatic stress. Weinbeck also stated that fewer law enforcement students attend school, which has made it harder to replace those who left.
Weinbeck stated that the decline in numbers coincided in 911 calls. This forced the department to change how they operate while still trying to respond to all calls.
“Some of our positions didn’t get filled at all,” she stated. “We began to decrease our investigation of some of our gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor crime… we just didn’t have the resources span>
While the FBI and other agencies use a per capita measure to report police staffing levels in their jurisdictions, experts agree that it is dependent on other factors as well.
Colby Dolly from the National Policing Institute stated that many cities use population ratios (e.g. one officer for every 1,000 residents) to decide how many officers the police department should have. Cities should instead look at the demand and workload for police services. This will allow them to be more proactive and prevent officers being unable to respond to every call.
He said that he wouldn’t want a teacher who is too busy with too many students and doesn’t have enough time to prepare for classes. The same applies to officers: you want them to be rested, able to prepare for calls, and able to have a positive disposition when they get to these calls .”
State law enforcement agencies are using a variety of strategies to increase their ranks. These include retention bonuses and recruitment, as well as internship programs to encourage high school students to enter the field.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey suggested that the police department be given nearly $400 million in the biennial budget. This would include funding new classes of officers and enough staffing to meet the charter-mandated minimum 731 officers.
To help them recruit more officers, the St. Paul Police Department created an internal task force. This includes recruiting officers from other law enforcement departments, and a pathway program for students interested in policing. Serier stated that the department encourages officers to get out in the community to act as ambassadors and direct residents interested in policing towards their cadet program.
Weinbeck stated that the Brooklyn Park Police Department traveled throughout the state in search of new recruits. The department has also focused on attracting more officers of color through incentives such as offering to pay school tuition.
She stated that Brooklyn Park Police Department’s goal is to “mirror our community.” “Over 50% of our community is made up of people of color, so we have a direct focus on our Cadet Program to hire cadets who look like our community span>
The Minnesota State Patrol has announced that it will sign up to the 30×30 Initiative. This initiative is a commitment by several police departments across America to increase the number and gender diversity of police officers by at least 30% by 2030.
Over 200 police departments, including those in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park have signed the pledge since it was launched in 2018. The initiative was started after a 2018 report about women in policing showed that the number has remained fairly stagnant for over 30 years.
According to the initiative, Women account for 12% of sworn officers nationwide and 3% of all police leaders.
According to FBI data, no department in the Twin Cities metro that is part of a city greater than 25,000 people has crossed the threshold at 30%. The highest percentages were recorded in Maplewood and Lakeville Police Departments. Women make up approximately 26% of each department’s sworn officers.
Research shows that women officers are less likely use excessive force or force, and are more trustworthy and compassionate than men. Weinbeck, whose department also took the pledge, stated that she saw the difference in her career working alongside women officers, and she approached her chief to take the initiative.
Some departments allow officers to come in at higher pay to attract candidates. This shortens the hiring process from months to prevent candidates being hired by private companies, whose process may only take a few days.
Short-staffed departments result in officers working longer hours, and officers leaving departments due to mental health issues. Dolly stated that he would love to see more departments put more emphasis on officer wellbeing and creating a positive workplace environment, which would attract more qualified candidates.
Dolly stated that officers have time off, they have support from management, and officers are disciplined when necessary. They also keep the culture of the department healthy.