MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell says Mayor Melvin Carter is asking for the police department to cut $9.2 million from its budget.
In an email sent to St. Paul police employees Friday, Axtell said he already shared with the mayor his “disappointment and urged him to reconsider.” Meanwhile, he acknowledged that St. Paul is facing significant budget issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and it requires difficult decisions from the mayor.
“Sadly, the cold, hard truth is that cuts mean positions. It means positions both sworn and civilian, at all ranks,” Axtell said.
However, Axtell said he is hopeful the police department won’t have to take that step.
“I’m hopeful because this is my eighth budget cycle as either the chief or assistant chief, and the initial projections normally change throughout the process. I’m hopeful because our community will get a chance to weigh in on the issue. And ultimately, the final budget is approved by the City Council, whose constituents know the value of the work you do,” he said.
Axtell says the cuts come at a time of increasing calls for service in St. Paul. According to recent crime statistics, reports of shots fired have increased by 145% over last year (as of July 15), domestic incidents are up 31% over last year, and aggravated assaults are up 33%. Some criminal activity, like rape and residential burglary, are down over last year.
The potential budget cuts for St. Paul police does not appear to be motivated by the defund and dismantle police movement, which has been gaining traction in Minneapolis following George Floyd’s death. The mayor’s office instead attributed the budget cuts to the economic crisis happening worldwide.
When asked for comment, the mayor’s office said it anticipates a $19 million to $34 million deficit in 2020 due to the financial impact of COVID-19, so it has been working with all city departments to identify reductions that can be made. That includes “as much as a $9.2 million budget reduction” from the police department’s annual budget of around $105 million.
“While the mayor has yet to make final decisions about the budget he’ll propose to the City Council next month, the realities of a global economic crisis are likely to require reductions in every city department,” Communications Director Peter Leggett of the mayor’s office said. “We are considering every option to avoid adding a large property tax increase to the challenges our residents are currently facing.”
The mayor’s office added that while all options are on the table to bridge the anticipated budget deficit, Mayor Carter has not presented a final 2021 budget proposal yet. He will do that next month in his annual budget address.
Source: CBS Minnesota