St. Paul mayor apparently tepid about accepting federal grant to hire more police

St. Paul police are "gasping for air" amid a staffing shortage.

Facebook/St. Paul Police Department

Minnesota’s capital city, St. Paul received a multi-million dollar federal grant offer to hire new police officers — but now it’s up to Mayor Melvin Carter to accept the money.

The grant was announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and can provide $3.75 million to help hire 30 new officers over the next three years. Under the terms of the grant, the city would pay for 18 of these officers itself while the DOJ would foot the bill for the remaining 12. St. Paul is expected to spend $1.8 million per year during this initiative; this amount will be matched by the DOJ.

The grant is proposed under the DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, a $139 million effort to hire 1,066 more police officers around the country.

This money can’t come soon enough, the St. Paul police say. “We need the help. This grant provided by the Department of Justice really brings that help,” said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, according to KARE 11.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s office has released a sanitary statement that gives little insight into Carter’s line of thinking: “We are always looking for ways to leverage outside funds in support of our comprehensive, coordinated and data-driven approach to public safety.”

Back in September Axtell asked the city for an additional $3.1 million, claiming that his department was effectively overrun by crime, unable to properly keep the city safe. He described his officers as “gasping for air” as they were being “being pushed to the brink” by a manpower shortage.

At that time, Mayor Carter responded by saying that he doesn’t “know a public servant who’s not exhausted right now” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He also noted that he didn’t want to make too much of a “commitment of city property tax dollars.”

It was after this exchange that Axtell applied for a COPS grant. His request for expanded funding will likely be taken with more weight now that the federal government is willing to double the city’s commitment.

Meanwhile, other police departments from California to Wyoming have already accepted their COPS grants, welcoming federal dollars with open arms.