Council Member Andrew Johnson was unimpressed with the Minneapolis Police Department's response to a drive-by shooting in north Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon. His concerns are seconded by Council President Barb Johnson, who represents a good swath of the Northside.
"Clearly there's an issue with response times, which are slower [on the Northside] than the rest of the city," Barb Johnson tells us. "I'm actually investigating one real serious one that happened over the weekend where people were out in [Lyndale Avenue North] fighting and it took a long time to get a police response."
Indeed, city data from last year indicates the MPD is slower to respond to serious police calls made from north Minneapolis than they are for calls made from any other precinct. The average response time for serious Northside calls was 10:03. For the city as a whole, the average response time was 9:14, which was up significantly from 8:33 the year before.
The best-served precinct is downtown, where the average response time in 2013 was 8:13.
Johnson blames last year's increase in police response times on the relatively low number of MPD officers working the streets. Indeed, data from recent years shows response times roughly correlate with the number of officers the MPD has at its disposal.
"We don't have enough police officers," she says. "Part of it is an attrition issue, the age level going through the police department.... [another part] is it takes a tremendous amount of time to recruit police officers, get them trained and tested, and people wash out."
Johnson says the MPD's budget allows it to hire about 50 more officers than the 800 or so it currently employs. Mayor Betsy Hodges said heading into this year that she wanted to hire about 100 cops in 2014.
Asked why she thinks police response times for Northside calls lag behind the rest of the city, Johnson says, "Because our cases are more complicated."
"There's more people doing things that would be considered out of bounds in other parts of the city," she continues. "Just last weekend people were out on the street fighting on Lyndale, and the week before on Lowry there was a shooting where somebody had to be taken to the hospital. All of them require big police resources."