St. Paul police chief continues to call for more officers

St. Paul police chief continues to call for more officers Photo: KSTP

Updated: September 18, 2019 06:35 PM

For the second time this month, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell went to city hall to ask city council members on the budget committee to consider adding more police officers to the force.


Axtell and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter agree that public safety in the capital city needs to be addressed. But, the two men have different views on how to accomplish that goal.

Carter's budget proposal, which was released last month, called for cutting five officers and investing more money in alternative public safety strategies.

In response to previous requests from the city's budget committee, Axtell released nearly 200 pages of data on crime trends and response times to city staff, which he said supports the need for a fully-staffed department.

"Our officers, in fact, are busier than ever before in the history of the City of St. Paul," Axtell said during his presentation Wednesday. "Our current staffing levels force us to leave one crime victim in order to help another."

St. Paul police budget presentation to include push for more officers

His comments came just a week after three people were shot and killed in different incidents that all happened within a matter of hours.

"Officers running from call to call, breaking from active calls to help others, does not build trust," Axtell said.

The police chief said part of the problem he wants to fix is how many officers are actually on the streets. The department is budgeted for 635 total sworn officers, but Axtell said only 570 are available for work at any given time.

That's due in part to life events like retirement, vacation, sick leave and military service, according to Axtell.

"As the police chief, I can't tell you how concerning this is," he said.

But during the hearing, several city council members pushed back on his comments, expressing a desire to look for alternative options of community policing.

"I think we need to find a new way forward that is not just reacting and reacting and driving up fear and turmoil and not actually healing the roots of these," said council member Mitra Jalali Nelson, who represents Ward 4.

The full St. Paul City Council has until early December to make changes and approve the 2020 budget.

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Kirsten Swanson

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