Frey calls special council meeting on MPD officer retention plan
A day after the Minneapolis City Council failed to consider a police officer recruitment and retention plan, the city’s mayor has officially called a special meeting to get a formal vote on the plan.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey set the meeting for 2 p.m. Friday. He’d signaled his intention to call the meeting Tuesday night after the council’s Budget Committee failed to even add the plan to the council’s agenda.
The city announced the agreement with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis (POFM) last week amid ongoing contract negotiations. The proposed deal, which is just one part of a contract that is still in negotiations, would pay police officers an extra $18,000 over three years and new hires an additional $15,000 over the same period while giving more managerial control to the chief.
With the department down more than 300 officers from four years ago and still well below what the city’s charter calls for, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara called the agreement “a step in the right direction” toward improving the department’s staffing levels. Frey added that the incentives would help MPD compete with other departments that are offering large incentives to officers.
But during Tuesday’s Budget Committee meeting, council member and committee chairperson Emily Koski said, “We’re not going to fix these issues by throwing money at them,” adding that the city needs to address the police department’s issues “holistically.”
The vote to add the recruitment and retention plan to the agenda ultimately failed, 5-7.
Afterward, O’Hara called the council’s action, or lack thereof, “beyond frustrating,” adding, “Words won’t fix this problem and you have waited long enough. We need is action, action that demonstrates an understanding of the staffing crisis that not only affects all of you, but affects the safety and level of services available for our residents.”
“City staff worked tirelessly to reach an agreement—signed just last week—to help recruit and retain police officers and deliver a significant managerial reform for Chief O’Hara and the department,” Frey said in announcing his decision to call a special meeting. “By refusing to even consider this agreement, the Budget Committee Chair is denying an opportunity for policymakers to vote on a crucial community-safety proposal. I’m calling this special meeting because Minneapolis residents rightly expect us to explore every option to attract and retain officers and reform the police department.”
Todd Barnette, the city’s new community safety commissioner, also weighed in, calling the bonuses a “key” to improving police staffing.
“It’s disappointing that the Council did not take this agreement up for a vote. Bringing in new officers and retaining those on the force is a critical component of this city’s approach to reimagining community safety,” Barnette said in a statement. “Attractive bonuses are key to recruitment and retention, and if we don’t provide them—as almost every other law enforcement agency in this region does—we will continue to watch the quality officers we want join other departments.”
Koski issued a statement Wednesday in response to the scheduling of the special meeting, saying that Frey and his staff haven’t given council members anything to refute their concerns about the agreement and she hopes they have it for Friday’s meeting.
Sondra Samuels, Northside Achievement Zone CEO and president, explained low staffing police levels have a negative impact on community safety.
“This is a life-or-death thing,” she said.
Working as the president of the Northside Achievement Zone, the effects of violence fall on Samuels’ doorstep.
“I’ve had a number of parents ask that we support them in moving from the north side,” she said. “I have parents who are leaving schools because they don’t feel it’s safe to send their children.”
Samuels said even though violence is down on the northside, it still exists.
In 2020, she and a group of northsiders sued Minneapolis arguing the city is not employing enough officers to keep the northside safe.
The state Supreme Court sided with them ordering the city to hire more officers.
Samuels believes offering incentives could help.
“Let’s do what is reasonable and right and that is doing transforming the department and making sure we keep our citizens safe at the same time,” she said. “We continue to keep them under scrutiny. We continue to do the practices that we’ve seen around the country that work in terms of transforming police departments. We can do both.”