GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — When deciding where to live, public safety is a big deal, and for lifelong Golden Valley resident Randy Anderson, a member of the city's PEACE Commission, it's part of the reason he's stayed.
"We have a safe city, our force is down, our crime is not going up, I see the data, I look at it, I watch it," said Anderson.
Golden Valley's newest and first Black Police Chief Virgil Green attributes the city's steady crime to a more than $60,000 mutual aid agreement with the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.
"We're not compromising the services that we're providing, the Sheriff's Department are great partners in making sure that we follow through with that," said Chief Green.
With a budget for 31 sworn-in officers, the department currently has less than 10.
"We’re down to 8 sworn officers and we got 8 non-sworn officers which are community resource officers," explained Chief Green.
In August, the city initiated a contract with the private security company BelCom, to allow unlicensed former police officers to assist with non-violent investigations at a cost of $85 an hour.
"They’re assisting with some of our investigative investigations related to say a property crime, you know say if somebody had their credit card theft, they can come in and do all that investigative work and assist our investigation department with filing those criminal charges," explained Chief Green.
It's what some policing experts refer to as a unique decision.
"This is the first time I've ever heard of an agency hiring a private security firm to help with investigations," said Dr. David Thomas, a forensics studies professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Dr. Thomas, says it's an option that can present challenges.
"Every time law enforcement acquiesces some of its stuff and gives it away for private industry to create the standard, then sometimes I believe a lot is lost because the agencies aren't controlling it," said Dr. Thomas.
With recruiting efforts underway and partnerships in place, experts say changes from within are what will attract and retain.
"What is the agency's reputation, what is their reputation in our community the minority community, what type of programs do they have in place, and how well do they sell themselves?" explained Dr. Thomas.
When asked why so many officers have left the department, Chief Green says it has a lot to do with conversations centered around police reform.
"You know how do we rethink the way we are policing and if that involves making sure that we are a much more inclusive department, making sure that we are diversifying our police department, making sure we’re following procedural justice," said Chief Green.
He went on to say, "if you’re in this profession to do that, then there shouldn’t really be that much of a pushback.”
The Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS) provides union services for the Golden Valley Police Department. LELS Executive Director Jim Mortenson released the following statement saying in part:
“The radical agenda of Golden Valley’s city leaders and their lack of support to the staff within the police department is having an effect on its residents and visitors to the community. It has caused unprecedented and dangerously low staffing levels as well as morale issues, as police officers are leaving in droves for employment with surrounding agencies."
“None of us expected to lose as many police officers as we did, however, if that’s what it takes to get the city in a direction where everyone feels included, so be it," said Anderson.
Golden Valley Police say they're running a recruiting campaign on social media and several job boards.
“We’re doing everything we can within our powers to make sure that we do a good job of recruiting and making sure we hire the right people and also to make sure the business community and the citizens know that we’re here to make sure that their safety is top priority," said Chief Green.
The department is also finalizing a contract to keep Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies on a 12-hour rotating shift until staffing needs are met.
Chief Green says a vote by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners on that contract is expected on March 7th.
Watch more local news:
Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist: