The Golden Valley Police Department is experiencing “unprecedented and dangerously low staffing levels,” according to a union leader, who said the city is down 61% from its budgeted force.
“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,” said Jim Mortenson, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services.
There’s some disagreement about the actual numbers. In a press release, the city said it has budgeted for 31 full-time sworn officers this year and is down to 14. Of this, eight are available to respond to 911 calls, plus another eight non-sworn community service officers.
According to Mortenson, there are only 12 officers on the current department roster. Nine are available to respond to calls for service, but that includes the chief and assistant chief, so there are actually just seven.
Three officers are on light duty or medical leave; five are applying at other agencies or plan to quit, he said. The department is also using a private firm to conduct all of its investigative work.
Mortenson said the city is now working just one sworn officer per shift. However, the city claimed in a statement to Alpha News that it has “at least two officers on patrol per shift, and through its current agreement with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, there may be more at times.”
“When looking at a department roster from December of 2020, there were 30 officers listed. Of those 30 officers, only six still remain on the force,” Mortenson added.
The city acknowledged that it has “experienced attrition” and is actively recruiting.
“In the past three years, the police department has seen employees coming and going like a revolving door. Decades of experienced, loyal, and dedicated employees of the Golden Valley Police Department have thrown their hands up in the air and left after many years of service,” said Mortenson, whose union represents Golden Valley officers.
In its press release, the city said the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is helping with 911 calls and it plans to explore “additional options.”
The city said its fire department is also responding to more 911 medical calls, which make up approximately 75% of all calls for service.
“It is absolutely paramount that the city does better to provide its residents with the permanent staffing levels they deserve. Minutes and seconds count when it comes to an emergency, and with Priority-1 Level calls having delayed response times, it could mean the difference between life and death in certain situations,” Mortenson said.
The city recently made public the findings of an outside investigation into some current and former Golden Valley police officers. One of the officers was fired for their role in “data breaches,” which included recording internal city meetings and sharing one of them with the media. The officer was also accused of making “racially biased and insensitive statements.”
The investigation was launched in March 2022 following the city’s contentious search for a new police chief, which saw the interim chief resign.
According to Mortenson, city leaders have “repeatedly rebuffed” his outreach efforts and “offers to assist with formulating a plan to fill their ranks.”
“On Jan. 31, 2023, the City Council had a work session to talk about police department staffing levels, and not one time in the hour and 40 minute meeting did any council members ask, ‘Why is everyone leaving?’ The citizens of Golden Valley should be demanding the answer to that question from their elected officials and city administration,” he said. “We hope the situation in Golden Valley improves and its residents stay safe.”