Brooklyn Center down 25% of usual police force

The city where Daunte Wright was killed has lost 25% of its police officers.

National guardsmen stand outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department during unrest following the death of Daunte Wright. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Police departments across the metro area are showing signs of demoralization.

At an August campaign event, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey revealed that the city “already had one of the lowest numbers of officers per capita” and then it lost “a third” of its police force.

“As far as I can tell, I can’t find another city that has fewer officers per capita than we do,” he said.

Just last week, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell told the City Council that his officers were “being pushed to the brink” because of high turnover and record crime rates.

The St. Paul Police Department is down to 563 sworn officers, compared to the 620 it normally has available.

“It’s important to note that we’re losing officers at an alarming rate,” Axtell said.

One of his officers was dragged behind a pickup truck the next day while chasing a suspect.

Now, CCX Media reports that of the Brooklyn Center Police Department’s full 49 officer authorization, only 37 are still with the department. In addition to the 12 officers no longer with the department, three are out on long-term medical leave, and two are completing their in-field training. That means only 32 of a possible 49 officers are actively serving Brooklyn Center.

And at least a dozen of those 32 officers are actively seeking employment elsewhere, Law Enforcement Labor Services Executive Director Jim Mortenson told CCX Media.

“If you have officers that are leaving in droves, and you have more in the pipeline, and still wanting to leave, there are issues that need to be taken care of, and that all falls to leadership,” he told the outlet.

The police union thinks the lack of support from city leaders is the main reason officers are leaving, though City Manager Reggie Edwards disagreed with that characterization.

“That was one officer out of 48. But it’s like the whole department is getting painted with the same brush, and they just feel like they’ve been abandoned by the city administration,” Mortenson told CCX Media, referring to former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who will stand trial on manslaughter charges later this year in the death of Daunte Wright.

Wright, who had an outstanding warrant for his arrest and was pulled over for a traffic violation, was killed after Potter fired her gun instead of her Taser. His death set off several days of riots outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, where officers were hit with bricks and glass bottles and residents of an adjacent apartment complex suffered through many sleepless nights.

Following the incident, the Brooklyn Center City Council passed a police reform resolution, which called for the creation of a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and an “unarmed civilian Traffic Enforcement Department [that] has the responsibility for enforcing all non-moving traffic violations in the City.”

Minneapolis residents will vote in November on replacing their police department with a new department of public safety, which will only include police officers “if necessary.”

Police are also dealing with an increase in assaults on officers. In its annual uniform crime report, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said there were 667 incidents in 2020 where an officer was assaulted in the line of duty, a 62% increase over 2019 and more than any other year on record.