Officer retention incentives plan discussion voted down, Chief O’Hara shares frustrations

Officer retention incentives plan discussion voted down, Chief shares frustrations

Officer retention incentives plan discussion voted down, Chief shares frustrations

A multimillion-dollar plan to boost police staffing in Minneapolis, just days after specifics were shared by the mayor, does not seem to have the support from the city council.

Friday, alongside Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara, Mayor Jacob Frey outlined the agreement the city made with the union that represents its police officers.  

“We need to be able to recruit and retain police officers,” Frey said.

“That should be no surprise to anyone that’s been paying attention over these last several years,” he added.

The more than $15 million plan includes $15,000 for new officers and $18,000 for current officers to be paid out over two and a half years. The money would come from state surplus funds the city is getting to be used for public safety.

During Minneapolis City Council’s Budget Committee meeting Tuesday, chair Emily Koski made it clear that she is not on board with the retention incentives.

“I will not be pushed to make rash decisions funded by taxpayer dollars,” Koski, who represents the city’s 11th ward, said.

“We’re not going to fix these issues by throwing money at them,” she later added. “We need to look at this problem holistically and make decisions that set us up for success, not just tomorrow, not just next year, but five, 10, and even 20 years from now.”

Koski quickly received pushback from the chair of the Public Health & Safety Committee, LaTrisha Vetaw.

“I just don’t think this council is taking how serious this issue is with the pace we’re losing officers,” Vetaw said.

As of September, the police department had 585 officers, which is down from more than 900 from four years ago.

“I don’t know how many of my colleagues speak to folks in the police department and see these numbers, it is bad,” Vetaw said. “This is a bad look for our city.”

Despite the about 20-minute debate over the bonuses, it started as a motion to add it to the agenda… which failed in a 5-7 vote.

Not long after the budget meeting, in a recorded address, Chief O’Hara expressed his disappointment.

“I understand and respect our political process. I must say, city council’s vote today is beyond frustrating,” O’Hara said.

“We have all heard enough talk from elected officials to last a lifetime. Enough already. 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,” he added.

In a statement, Mayor Frey shared why he’s calling for a special city council meeting this Friday:

City staff worked tirelessly to reach an agreement — signed with the Federation just last week — to help recruit and retain police officers and deliver a significant managerial reform for Chief O’Hara and the entire department. By refusing to even consider this proposal, 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 both retain officers and reform the police department.