St. Paul police chief asks city council for funds to hire 65 new officers

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St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell presented his 2022 budget proposal to the St. Paul City Council’s Budget Committee on Wednesday. He asked for a $3 million increase in spending for next year’s budget, allowing for a full police academy class that could put 65 new officers on the streets by June.

Axtell told council members he’s authorized to have 620 sworn officers, but right now there are only 563 on the city’s payroll. He described his officers as “overworked," "understaffed" and "mentally exhausted."

“The men and women who hold this department together are on the brink,” Axtell said. “We are also losing officers at an alarming rate to medical leave with, already this year, 26 officers who’ve left the profession due to medical conditions and, historically, those numbers have been one or two [per year].”

City Council Member Mitra Jalali did not agree with Axtell’s request for an additional $3 million. She told the chief she was disappointed with his presentation — which she said was not given to the City Council in a timely enough manner for a thorough review.

“I just kind of feel astounded right now and then on top of that you ask for a $3 million increase,” Jalali said. “And this comes after we’ve had historic civil unrest and uprisings against police brutality and it is part of the same outgrowth of white supremacy, structural racism and there’s just more community instability than ever.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Melvin Carter told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the mayor’s budget proposal for next year provides a 4.3% increase for police spending next year, which is a higher proposed budget increase than any other department in the city.

“Our long-term public safety challenges cannot be solved by simply doubling down on traditional strategies,” Carter said in a statement. “Our Community-First framework, built by residents and officers working together, balances investments in policing with neighborhood-based interventions in support of a much more comprehensive approach to public safety.”