The Minneapolis Police Department is experiencing historically low staffing shortages, with ranks down approximately 35% since the death of George Floyd in 2020.
According to a June report from the Department of Justice, the MPD had 892 sworn officers in 2018, but that number has since dropped to just 585. An officer told the DOJ that the police department’s morale “is at an all-time low.”
“Since 2020, hundreds of officers have left MPD, up and down the ranks, young and old, patrol officers and supervisors,” the report stated.
The DOJ noted that the department has failed to replenish its staff, partly due to its “strained relationship with the community it serves.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that at the time of Floyd’s death in March 2020, the MPD had 904 active, sworn police officers and 19 officers on leave. The number of officers on leave jumped to 152 in December 2020. By late August 2021, the number of active police officers on the force plummeted to 646 and continued to slowly decrease over time.
In the months that followed Floyd’s death, which sparked riots nationwide, the MDP faced an influx of resignations, retirements, and disability claims. The department’s staffing shortages resulted in significant overtime costs, longer response times, and a decline in proactive policing, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Some days, the department has only four officers working a given precinct, the outlet reported. The MPD is often so understaffed that it does not have anyone available to work the station’s front desk.
Minneapolis has one of the lowest ratios of police officers to population, with 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents, while the national average is 2.4.
The city’s charter requires the department to maintain a minimum of 731 sworn officers.
In June 2022, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the city council had to approve enough funding to staff 731 officers. Despite the requirement to fill the positions, the department has been unsuccessful.
Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, which represented several residents who sued the city for failing to meet the staffing requirements, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the department’s shortages were a “self-induced problem.”
“They’ve created the mess that has resulted in some of the reticence to join up, or apply for, those police positions,” Seaton said.
MPD Chief Brian O’Hara called the staffing shortages “absolutely not sustainable.”
“Thank God for all these other agencies that are filling this gap,” he added, referring to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re never going to change people’s perception of us — and we’re never going to establish meaningful relationships with people — if the only thing we’re doing is responding from emergency to emergency to emergency,” O’Hara stated.
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