(The Center Square) – Police must count handcuffing a person and pulling out a gun from a holster as an official use of force as part of the ongoing reform efforts within the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
The number of arrests in Minneapolis has fallen to its lowest level in four years as the city’s police department’s use-of-force numbers climb after city officials changed the reporting requirements.
Although arrests have declined, use-of-force numbers for Minneapolis police officers have increased, according to the city’s use of force dashboard.
The increase in use-of-force reports coincides with reporting changes, Minneapolis Police Department Public Information Officer Garrett Parten said.
“Handcuffing is now required to be reported as a use-of-force, so that has increased astronomically,” he said.
Handcuffs are the most common use of force by Minneapolis police, showing up in 13% of all police reports and 85% of use-of-force reports in 2021, according to a Minneapolis Police Department analysis. Specific holds, bodily force and firearms were included in 4% of all reports and 24% to 29% of reports involving force in 2021, according to the same analysis.
“All of these changes have brought our numbers up,” said Sherral Schmidt, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. “If I put handcuffs on someone I have to fill out a use-of-force form.”
The new policy added new categories for reporting certain holds on compliant people, joint manipulations, nerve pressure points (touch pressure), handcuffing, unholstering/display of a weapon, verbal threats to use less-lethal weapons, less-lethal weapon pointing, verbal threats to use deadly force and firearm pointing, according to the policy. Less lethal weapons include electroshock weapons, chemical irritants and others.
However, it’s not clear if Minneapolis police officers are using handcuffs more or less than they were before the policy change,” Schmidt said.
“We don’t have anything to compare it to,” she said.
In some cases, such as stun gun use, the numbers are down. In 2019, before the policy change, Minneapolis police deployed stun darts 90 times. In 2020, they deployed the darts 57 times, Schmidt said.
The dashboard shows the department’s count of case numbers for use of force hit its lowest point in 2019 with 757 case numbers. The highest number of cases in a single year was in 2008, when there were 1,488 case numbers. After declining for years after 2008, case numbers started increasing again after 2019. In 2020, there were 1,108 case numbers. Case numbers increased again in 2021 to 1,411. So far in 2022, 903 case numbers had been reported as of Sept. 11.
The dashboard has a disclaimer that notes “data collection for use of force has changed. The Minneapolis Police Department is enhancing this data set to include more information. New data will be available soon.” The police department’s data team did not respond to questions about when new data would be available.
The Minneapolis Police Department made 12,120 arrests in 2019, the last full year before Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020. That number fell to 8,738 arrests in 2021 and is on track to continue to decline this year. Year-to-date the number of arrests in 2022 was 3,082 as of Aug. 1.
The city’s police force increased in size steadily each year from 2012 to 2019. The size of the police force peaked in 2020 with 1,082.90 full-time equivalent police officers. It declined by fewer than six officers after Floyd’s death to 1,077 in 2021, according to the city’s most recent annual financial report.
City documents show the Minneapolis City Council approved cuts in the police department because of unanticipated attrition and a loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s annual audited budget that was released in July reports total revenues for the city dropped from $916.4 million in 2019 (the year before the pandemic) to $817.3 million in 2021, about an 11% reduction over that two-year span.
According to the 2021 adopted budget, the city cut $28.7 million in police expenses in 2021, or 15% of total costs as compared to 2020. The City Council kept vacant 140 sworn full-time jobs and 21 non-sworn positions for a total of 161 unfilled full-time positions. The city anticipated having to increase its overtime budget for police in 2021, from $3.5 million to $8.5 million because of the unfilled positions.
“The decrease in expenses is attributable mainly to reductions in public safety costs due to decreased personnel expense as the police department continued to see staffing shortages in the wake of the events of 2020 surrounding George Floyd’s murder,” according to the city’s annual financial report.
Schmidt, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said the most recent count of Minneapolis Police Department officers was about 545.
Crime in the city remained relatively flat for most of the past decade, according to the financial report. The total number of Part 1 Crimes, which includes violent crime and property crime, fluctuated slightly from 23,532 in fiscal year 2012 to a low of 20,883 in fiscal year 2018. Crime then increased in fiscal year 2019 to 24,010 before rising again to a peak in 2020 of 25,500. In fiscal year 2021, the total number of Part 1 Crimes fell to 24,111. Violent crime has been on the rise since 2018, when there were 3,851 total violent crimes. By 2021, that number had climbed to 5,945.
None of the 11 Minneapolis City Council members responded to questions about the city’s police department. The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police also did not respond to a request for comment.
MPD150, a group that aims to “shift discussion around police and policing in Minneapolis from one of procedural reforms to one of meaningful structural change,” also did not respond to a request for comment.