ST PAUL, Minn. — The killing of George Floyd has brought on a lot of conversations about how communities fund police.
While Minneapolis is in it's own fight over the issue right now, St. Paul is too. Wednesday night, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell made a plea to the city council, asking for an additional $3.1 million in police funding over what Mayor Melvin Carter has proposed.
All of this follows a violent weekend during which St. Paul saw four homicides within a 36-hour period.
"Right now the women and men who hold this department together are being pushed to the brink," Chief Axtell said during the Budget Committee meeting Wednesday.
Currently, Mayor Carter's proposed budget for the department stands at about $120 million.
Axtell said the headcount is at 563 in terms of his sworn officers at the department. He said the department should have a sworn strength of 620.
"I'm observing a lot of stress, a lot of concern, the body language the slumped shoulders, the at times -- sad eyes that I see," Axtell said. "I see it's wearing on our officers. I'm hearing from our officers that they're tired. That they're frustrated when they're called in on their days off with their families to work overtime when they hadn't planned on doing that."
Axtell said simply having more officers to staff shifts would help alleviate the stress.
"The plan that I have proposed would not only staff the frontline in a way where our frontline officers going call to call would be able to get the rest and required rehab time they need for their emotions," he said. "Also the physical nature of the job, and the investigative capacity, once a crime does happen, we owe it to victims of crime in our city to do everything we can to follow up every lead possible."
Chief Axtell said the additional $3.1 million will help with staffing. This is especially crucial because he says last year due to the pandemic, they did not have the academy.
The pandemic also led to citywide budget cuts that included a $3.7 million-attrition for police that led to the department's inability to replace officers who quit or retired.
"Unrested, emotionally drained and less-trained police officers lead to mistakes," Axtell said. "The mistakes in this job lead to diminished community relations, and huge civil payouts."
"Eventually my hope would be the alternatives; the investments made in alternatives to police response and preventing crime before it happens -- that the data will show we can actually reduce the need for police," Axtell continued. "But until that data is there, we owe it to the crime victims and community members in our city to have a well-staffed police department."
In response, Mayor Carter released this statement:
“Our long-term public safety challenges cannot be solved by simply doubling down on traditional strategies. 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.”
The council is expected to vote on a budget in December.