Sheriff Fletcher: Politicians won’t ‘accept the concept’ that cops stop crime

"We need to get elected officials to understand that there's a direct correlation" between police presence and crime rates, Sheriff Fletcher said.

Background: Live on Patrol/Facebook; Left: Bob Fletcher/Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said Twin Cities politicians are unwilling to “accept the concept that police officers deter and prevent crime.”

Ramsey County covers the approximate area of St. Paul. Fletcher has been the sheriff there for nearly 30 years. Over the last year, he’s hosted regular livestreams from the seat of his squad car during which he provides an inside look at a night on the town and speaks to the public about law enforcement issues.

“We’re going to talk candidly about what’s going on,” he said in a recent stream, which opened up outside of the Seventh Street Truck Park bar, where a weekend shootout left 14 wounded and one dead.

“We do not understand why some elected officials don’t get the relationship between officer presence and safety,” Fletcher began. “We know that our presence curtails shootings. Every place we’ve been outside of here has had shootings when we’re not there.”

“Yes, they [police] arrest people and they do a great job responding to calls, but their mere presence [also] does stop crime. Every single day, presence stops crime … Police officers do prevent crime, we just have to get that,” he added.

The sheriff then addressed why St. Paul doesn’t see more proactive policing: “The staffing study that was done two and a half years ago by the St. Paul City Council recommended 50 extra officers,” he explained. Instead of getting those officers, the department has lost manpower. “The St. Paul police is down another 50-70 officers through attrition and the retirement rate is increasing dramatically,” Fletcher reported.

“The St. Paul police officers do not have enough time, because they’re short of staff, to be able to do proactive visits to these potential [crime] areas,” he said.

“We need to get elected officials to understand that there’s a direct correlation” between police presence and crime rates, Fletcher continued. “The majority of St. Paul City Council people do not [understand this] … they cannot accept the concept that police officers deter and prevent crime. It’s so ludicrous, we’ve been doing this for 40+ years.”

He also placed blame at the feet of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter. “What I don’t understand is how come our mayor is not willing to just open his mind to the possibility that someone else might have better information,” Fletcher said.

While the mayor has expressed his concern for police staffing levels in the past, he has also accused those who recently critiqued his approach to law enforcement of exploiting a tragedy in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting.

“That’s what drives me crazy [is] … when we hear people taking an incident like this in which we lost the life of a young woman … and you have people who would love to exploit their pain, our pain for a community to grind an axe on politics,” he told KARE 11 in a recent interview. He then immediately pushed a political agenda, calling for state and federal gun control.

Meanwhile, Twin Cities citizens seem to want more police. Speaking on a proposal to reduce or eliminate police in Minneapolis, a black resident of the city told MPR she doesn’t want the city council to make drastic changes. “Don’t experiment on us,” she said, “because we’re the ones that are going to be hit hardest first.”