Minneapolis to re-hire 15 police officers

NEWS RELEASE

December 22, 2009

Contact: John Stiles, 612-673-3665 (office) or 612-581-1788 (mobile)

Contact: Sgt. William Palmer, 612-919-9362 (mobile)

Mayor Rybak, Chief Dolan Announce Re-hiring of 15 Police Officers

Federal grant allows MPD to put officers back to work on January 1, of total 25 laid off last week

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Police Chief Tim Dolan announced today that 15 Minneapolis police officers who recently received lay-off notices will be back on the street in January.  The U.S. Department of Justice today approved the City’s application to modify a previously awarded COPS Hiring Recovery Program grant of federal stimulus dollars. The modification of this grant will allow the MPD to re-hire 13 officers as of January 1, 2010. Six of those officers had previously been serving in the Patrol Division of the MPD; the other seven graduated from the Police Academy last week.

Additionally, the City of Minneapolis Department of Regulatory Services has agreed to provide funding to allow the MPD to rehire two more officers from the pool of 25 officers who are working their last day today.  This funding is slotted to cover one officer who will work in conjunction with Regulatory Services personnel on problem properties and one officer who will work with Animal Control on enforcement issues.

In total, 15 of the 25 officers that received lay-off notices are being re-hired.

“Winning this grant shows that even in challenging budget times and despite ongoing budget crises at the State, we are doing everything in Minneapolis we can to put cops on the street and keep them there,” said Mayor R.T. Rybak. “We’re grateful to the Obama administration and their economic-recovery plan for lending a hand.”

“Over the past several years, our top priority has been to make Minneapolis a safe place to call home, and we’ve had some remarkable success, a piece of which the FBI recognized just yesterday. Under Chief Dolan’s leadership, and in partnership with neighbors and businesses across Minneapolis, the men and women of the Police Department have made Minneapolis safer by nearly every measure and safer than many other cities,” Mayor Rybak continued.

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said, “The Minneapolis Police Department has been awaiting this decision and I am pleased that we can alleviate the stress of this difficult time for the families of these officers. The department will continue to look for other funding with the goal of rehiring the other officers as well.  Our collective thoughts go out to the employees in all City departments who have lost their jobs during this difficult time.” 

City Council Member Don Samuels, chair of the Public Safety Committee, said, “For a city whose primary function is public safety, this is the best Christmas gift we could receive. This grant allows us to keep our commitment to the citizens of Minneapolis by retaining police officers.”

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Who are we asking to fix the state budget deficit?

Recently I was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio for a story on the cuts to General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC). It was broadcast and posted on their website the same day the most recent forecast of the state budget deficit was released. The timing was appropriate as these stories are obviously related.

GAMC was unallotted by Governor Pawlenty at the end of the 2009 legislative session. GAMC provides medical care for poor adults without children. In 2008, 26,227 people in Hennepin County were enrolled in GAMC and 70% (about 18,000) of those enrollees lived in Minneapolis. The program remains in statute but unless the legislature finds a way to refund it this session, some 35,000 of the poorest Minnesotans will be without medical care.

To help these people get medical care, the state will transfer GAMC enrollees onto MinnesotaCare and counties will need to pay the monthly premium (approximately $5) until people re-enroll – a cost of $600,000 for Hennepin County alone. Unfortunately, 28% of GAMC enrollees are homeless making it nearly impossible to ensure they’re enrolled or able to pay their premium if they are. Also, it doesn’t offer immediate coverage as GAMC did for uninsured patients who seek care at a hospital emergency room. Therefore, hospitals will absorb cost for uncompensated care. And if people are enrolled, MinnesotaCare has a $10,000 annual cap on hospitalizations. We all know how quickly this cap could be reached which would again force hospitals to absorb the cost.

I know the state is faced with difficult decisions right now in trying to balance the books as we emerge from one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. I do not expect anyone to go unscathed when it comes to budget cuts. I understand that we are all expected to brace ourselves for the worst and work together to emerge from the situation as quickly as possible and hopefully, economically stronger than we were before.

What I don’t understand is why we are asking the poorest of the poor to shoulder this burden. Continuing to refuse tax increases, the responsibility of state budget balancing has simply and systematically been transferred to cities and counties and then, in this case, on to a population in greatest need. With this particular cut, urban safety net hospitals like Hennepin County Medical Center are being asked to absorb costs or turn people away.

Just as irresponsible is the belief that this will decrease costs. There are public safety concerns when someone is forced to go without anti-psychotic medications. Resources are stretched dangerously thin when police are expected to provide crisis intervention in the back of a squad car for people who have no place else to go. When people don’t have medical care, services aren’t delivered until it’s an emergency with astronomical costs. Homeless shelters will be forced to say no to an influx of requests for help with buying medications. The ripple effect of this budget cut are sure to be even more dangerous and significant than we can imagine. Unforeseen consequences will be just as costly, if not more so, than the original allotment of funds for GAMC.

Yesterday a bipartisan leadership panel was hosted by the Cities United Way to discuss the “New Face of the Uninsured.” Panelists acknowledged that it will take partnerships across party lines and with the governor to find a solution to this unallotment. Perhaps if that had been the approach in the first place, we wouldn’t be scrambling now to ensure that some of our City’s residents most in need continue to have medical care.