MINNEAPOLIS– Inside the sprawling Minneapolis Police Academy campus on the city’s north side, six people sat soberly and listened to a handful of officers and city officials talk about joining a department under -staff that is synonymous with the murder of George Floyd.
Officers would live in a bustling and dynamic metropolitan area with a high quality of life, they said, working in a large department where they could choose a wide variety of career paths with comprehensive benefits.
But those who take the oath must understand that it is dangerous work and that they are expected to protect the sanctity of human life – even if it means curbing a fellow officer. And everything they do must be aimed at restoring trust in a city left in tatters by the murder of Floyd and other black men.
“There are still people who still appreciate us,” said Sgt. Vanessa Anderson told potential recruits. “The community always appreciates us. I really think so.
Crime has increased in Minneapolis during the pandemic, as it has in many American cities. Homicides nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021, aggravated assaults jumped by a third, and carjackings — which the city only started tracking in the fall of 2020 — have skyrocketed. And the city’s crime problem has been compounded by a mass exodus of officers who cited post-traumatic stress after Floyd’s death, gutting the department of about a third of its staff.
Some locals say the city can feel lawless at times. On July 4, police seemed unable to cope when troublemakers fired fireworks at other people, buildings and cars. That night sparked more than 1,300 911 calls. One witness described fireworks being fired at one of the few police cars that responded.
“Our city needs more police officers,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in August, while introducing a proposal to increase police funding in a bid to increase the number of officers to more than 800 by 2025. Adding to the pressure: a court ruled in favor of residents who sued the city for not having the minimum number of officers required under the city’s charter.
One of the six who attended the late summer presentation at the Minneapolis Police Academy was Cyrus Collins, 36, from suburban Lino Lakes, who identifies as mixed-race.
Collins sports a face tattoo of an obscenity against the police. He told The Associated Press he was directed at “bad guys,” like those who killed Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who were shot by officers serving a search warrant in Louisville, Kentucky. The department said it has no policy governing tattoos.
“I don’t want people of color to be against the cops,” said Collins, who works as a pizza cook and FedEx package distributor. “What other career would dope to send that message than being a Minneapolis police officer?”
Also at the meeting was William Howard, a 29-year-old black man who said he installs office furniture, writes stories for video games and has only lived in Minneapolis for a few months. Howard said he studied meditation and thought it would be a useful skill when de-escalation is needed.
“I feel like I can bring more heart into policing. The heart is not about power and control, it’s about courage and protection and serving people,” Howard said.
But he was hesitant to apply. He has a one-year-old son and worries about work-life balance and job hazards.
Frey’s proposed funding would cover a marketing campaign for recruiting officers, an internship program for high school students and four classes of police recruits each year, among other measures.
Police spokesman Garrett Parten said the city is aware of the recruiting challenges it faces. Each class can accommodate up to 40 recruits, but only six were in the class that graduated in September. Only 57 people applied in 2022, compared to 292 applicants in 2019.
“You can shout as loud as you want, ‘Hire more people!’ but if fewer people apply, it won’t change the outcome much,” Parten said. “Across the country, recruitment has become a problem. There are just fewer people applying for the job.
The statistics confirm it. Among 184 police departments surveyed in the United States and Canada, the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum found that resignations jumped 43% from 2019 to 2021 and retirements jumped. by 24%. Faced with these departures, overall hiring fell by 4%.
At a briefing for cadet candidates in March, Matthew Hobbs, a training officer, thanked attendees for just being there.
“In Minneapolis, with what we’ve been through for the past two years, for you to be here and to care about law enforcement…I’m impressed with every single one of you here,” he said. he declares.
Hobbs spoke about how he felt the day after Floyd’s murder, when he and other officers were ordered out of the compound which protesters quickly stormed and set on fire.
“It was the worst day of my career. But even after that, I still love my job,” Hobbs said, urging entrants to apply. “It’s an incredible career.”
Howard – the potential recruit with reservations – later said he applied but failed to pass the oral exam. And Collins, who had spoken about being a bridge between people of color and the police, said a last-minute trip forced him to miss a necessary oral exam. He plans to apply again later, he said.
“I want to do something that I’m proud of and give it all my compassion,” Collins said. “I don’t see any other career – right now, in 2022, with everything going on – than being a cop.”
Trisha Ahmed is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter.
Find full AP coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd