Mayor Carter commits to replenishing St. Paul police force with up to 80 new hires

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter says “public safety is our No. 1 priority” after he announced Thursday he was accepting a $3.7 million federal grant to help hire as many as 80 new police officers this year.

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“That’s our plan, and frankly we already hired this year the largest class of police officers that we’ve ever hired in our city’s history,” Carter said. “We already have a second academy underway that we are doing the hiring for right now.”

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Carter told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS his administration does not believe, however, that hiring more officers is the sole solution to stopping the rising tide of violent crime in the city and said he will continue to push for more programs, better education and job opportunities for at-risk youth to keep them away from a life of crime.

“Frankly, what our police department has done well for a very long time is to be a police department that is centered on community,” Carter said. “Obviously, we have progress that we can continue to make and we are committed to doing that.”

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said he supports the mayor’s decision and said the SPPD has been losing officers at a such a high rate that the department is about 100 officers below the department’s authorized strength of 620 sworn officers.

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Axtell issued the following statement in response to Carter’s decision to accept the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services grant:

“I’m relieved to hear that Mayor Carter has accepted the COPS grant, which will go a long way towards helping our department keep Saint Paul safe. Officers are the lifeblood of the SPPD, and they’ve been doing more and more with less and fewer for too long. Knowing that help is on the way — that we could be at or near our authorized strength some time in the next year and a half to two years — is a step in the right direction. Everyone in the city — people who live here, work here, visit here, officers and crime victims, especially victims of crimes — deserves a police department that is staffed to its authorized strength. I’m glad to see that the city is finally moving in that direction.”

Mayor Carter said he expects the City Council to approve acceptance of the federal grant in the coming weeks which also includes a match of $3.7 million from the city.