St. Paul mayor ‘hopeful’ city can match federal grant for more police

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St. Paul is down roughly 80 officers from its authorized staffing level, and the head of the city’s police union wants city leaders to close that gap.

In November, the U.S. Justice Department awarded St. Paul a $3.75 million dollar grant to hire 30 police officers over a three-year period — if the city added $5.5 million of its own money.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he is “hopeful” the city can find the matching dollars but said it would be a challenge because the city would be committed to a long-term financial plan to sustain the hiring of the additional 30 officers.

“One of the things people need to understand is that it is potentially millions of dollars and future commitments that we have to pay for,” Carter said. “And all of this is coming at a time when we are also addressing significant needs across the board to recover from the pandemic.”

Carter said his staff is working diligently to figure out how much money they can find in the city budget to either do the entire $5.5 million dollar match, or maybe a portion of that amount, and they are also considering whether other grant money could be used to match the U.S. Justice Department funds.

“We have American Rescue Plan dollars to invest right now, but there is more research that needs to be done regarding that,” Carter said. “So, it is not yet clear if federal, American Rescue Plan dollars can be used to match against the federal Justice Department grant.”

St. Paul Police Federation President Mark Ross said he also is hopeful city leaders can come together to find the matching money because in 2021, St. Paul set single-year highs for homicides, shootings and carjackings, while the city’s authorized number of officers is down from 619 officers to about 540.

“We are truly approaching a crisis right now, but we are not there yet,” said Ross. “We are not at the same point as Minneapolis — which is a whole ‘nother ballgame where they really have their work cut out for them because they are down 300 officers — and we clearly can turn this thing around, but we have to act now.”

Mayor Carter and the City Council are expected to discuss this issue in the coming weeks.