Minneapolis is scrambling to draft in cops from outside the city’s force to help fight a wave of violent crime just months after it began moves to defund its police.
The city is pleading for reinforcements from the sheriff’s office and the transit authority to help respond to a surge in violent 911 calls.
It comes after dozens of officers quit the force in protest at a $1million budget cut and promises from city leaders to scrap the entire department following the death of George Floyd in May.
Since then, violent crime in the city has soared – with homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and arson all up on last year’s figures.
Violent crime has soared in Minneapolis since the plans were pushed through. Pictured above: Crime statistics up to mid-September are seen in orange, compared to 2019 figures in blue
The shortage of cops comes after the city council voted to disband the entire police force, and in July stripped $1million in funding from cops and used it to fund ‘violence interrupters’
The proposal to fund the reinforcements – which will cost almost $500,000 – is due to be voted on by the City Council before going to the mayor approval, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The teams could hit the streets as soon as November 15, and may be kept in place into next year.
Council Member Linea Palmisano told the Star Tribune: ‘We’re barely able to cover the shifts that we have.’
Minneapolis is scrambling to recruit extra cops from other forces after a large number of officers quit in the wake of George Floyd’s death (pictured – police in the city last week)
At the start of the year, the Minneapolis police force employed 1,053 staff – 877 of them officers and 176 civilian staff.
That number had dropped to 987 as of last month – 844 officers and 143 civilians.
In July, the city council voted to move $1.1million from the police department’s budget and fund ‘civilian violence interrupters’ instead.
The ‘well-trained and unarmed’ staff are designed to ‘mediate violent conflicts and help prevent further trouble’.
Against that backdrop, violent crime has soared.
Minneapolis reported 48 homicides in 2019, but that figure is already up to 74 so far this year and is continuing to rise.
Violent crime, including domestic aggravated assault, was up almost 15 per cent in the first nine months of the year, while property crime was up almost eight per cent in the same time period.
Robbery rose from 931 to 1,275 (37 percent) while incidents of aggravated assault increased from 1,750 in 2019 to 2,100 this year (20 percent).
Burglary rose from 2,223 to 2,785 (25 percent), thefts from motor vehicles rose from 3,127 to 3,937 (26 percent), and auto theft rose from 1,982 to 2,766 (40 percent).
Amid the shortage of officers, other groups have stepped in to fill the gap – including a group of armed black men protecting neighborhoods in the north of the city.
The Minnesota Freedom Fighters was formed in late May after the NAACP chapter in the city’s north, predominantly black, neighborhood put out a call for residents to help protect small businesses from violence, fires and looting.
Protesters demonstrate outside of a burning fast food restaurant, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody
Officer Derek Chauvin, left, has been charged with second-degree murder after George Floyd (right) suffocated to death while the officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes
A group of about two dozen men gathered and have patrolled the streets since, carrying AR-15s and Glocks and wearing tactical vests and bandannas.
They have been welcomed by the city, who called their actions ‘commendable’.
‘It’s important to have men from the community step up for the community,’ Sasha Cotton, director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, told the LA Times.
‘It’s their right to be out on the streets and it’s commendable. There are black residents who in the early days of the unrest felt vulnerable … and still do.’
The men, who include a retired firefighter, a healthcare worker and a veteran, have been in regular communication with the city and after unrest died down, continued to patrol streets and act as security for protesters.
The council moved to defund the police department following the death of George Floyd on May 25, a 46-year-old black man, who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer – Derek Chauvin – knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Floyd’s death was captured in a video shared widely online sparking outrage across the U.S. and galvanizing the Black Lives Matter movement which saw protests in a number of cities – including Minneapolis – some of which turned violent.
The now-infamous incident also led to calls to defund police departments, and redirect funds to more community-focused programs.
Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder, while the three other officers who were present at Floyd’s arrest and death have been charged with aiding and abetting.