Minneapolis, MN – Five police chiefs from the city’s suburbs came together to speak out about the rising gun violence in their communities and said they didn’t want their neighborhoods to become like Minneapolis.
Police chiefs from the Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Maple Grove, Plymouth, and New Hope police departments described the spike in gun violence that they’re seeing in their communities to KMSP.
Violent crime in Hennepin County was up 24 percent last year from the prior year, and it skyrocketed up to 36 percent in the last three months of 2020.
But when you take Minneapolis proper out of the calculations, crime was still up by 19 percent in the suburbs, KMSP reported.
The chiefs said they thought the rise in violent crime in the suburbs could be attributed to the unrest surrounding the death of George Floyd, the pandemic, and the public’s easy access to cheap guns.
“I’ve never seen the gun violence like it is,” Brooklyn Park Police Chief Craig Enevoldsen told KMSP. “We need to come together and say when is enough, enough.”
“I literally thought the [shootings] of those children in Minneapolis (from stray gunfire) could get a different way of thinking, and it hasn’t,” Chief Enevoldsen continued. “God forbid it could be us. That could happen in any of our cities.”
The chief, a 30-year veteran of the Brooklyn Park Police Department, said the number of shots fired called in the city had increased by 55 percent compared the same period of time last year, KMSP reported.
In the past 18 months, there have been 146 shootings in Brooklyn Park, resulting in 49 people shot and 4 people killed.
Brooklyn Park police officers have taken 55 guns off the street in that same period, but Chief Enevoldsen said he knew that was just a fraction of the illegal weapons out there, KMSP reported.
The police chiefs said the tone in their communities was being set by the violence in Minneapolis.
They pointed to the drive-by shootings, the street racing, and general sense of lawlessness in the city that was spreading into its western suburbs, KMSP reported.
The problems are exacerbated by Minneapolis’ beleaguered police force that is so understaffed a judge recently ordered the city council to hire more officers.
“It’s the credibility factor,” Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering told KMSP. “And the issue we are facing because of that is the complete lawlessness that’s going on in some of our cities. We have to figure out a way to combat that.”
Chief Revering, who is also president of the Hennepin County Police Chiefs Association, said law enforcement officers are confused because the rules of engagement have changed or appear contradictory.
“You can’t tell us to go out and make traffic stops because you are seeing the speeders and the street racing, and the next day say to us you can’t do traffic stops because now horrible things are happening to people,” Chief Revering complained.
The chiefs agreed that it was becoming pointless to make arrests like felon in possession of a weapon because the courts had a revolving door and the criminals were being released from jail by the courts faster than they could be arrested, KMSP reported.
Chief Enevoldsen pointed to 61 recent gun cases his department tracked where the suspects didn’t get jail time and many were never formally charged.
The chief cited as an example James Klein, a convicted felon who shot at police last March after he was caught trying to illegally buy ammunition at Brooklyn Park Walmart, KMSP reported.
Klein was released from jail a month later on a signature bond, and then three weeks later, he engaged with Utah police in a shootout.
“A lot of these folks are getting out quickly and committing the same crime again,” Chief Revering said of her own community. “You talk about carjackings, they get out and commit carjackings again. And then we sit back and ask how this is happening?”
The Crystal police chief cited a case that involved a man who shot at police, but the judge refused to believe the officers were his target, KMSP reported.
Illegal street racing in Minneapolis has spilled over into the western suburbs, too.
“In the City of Plymouth we had two pedestrians struck and killed, and that was the result of a street race,” Plymouth Police Chief Erik Fadden told KMSP.
The chiefs complained the Defund the Police movement in Minneapolis has portrayed all the local police departments as illegitimate and unworthy of community respect or cooperation.
“We see the same individuals again and again and again,” the Brooklyn Park police chief said.
“All we can do is get them assigned a caseworker,” Chief Enevoldsen said. “That’s the best we can do. We can never exchange information with a caseworker, whatsoever.”
Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner, the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association’s president, said departments aren’t getting credit for the reforms they’ve already made for dealing with suspects suffering mental health issues, KMSP reported.
“I think Minnesota law enforcement has done a tremendous job in that area,” Chief Werner said.
He explained that most agencies in the Minneapolis area have committed to 40 hours of crisis intervention training for officers and added social workers to their departments to assist, KMSP reported.
“We are trying to find what is the next evolution, what is the next change, or what is the next best practice, how can we do it better. We have found solutions but will continue to look for what’s best,” Chief Werner said.
But the rising crime in the streets combined with plunging morale on police departments is causing a shortage of officers for the Minneapolis metropolitan area, KMSP reported.
“We are all having problems getting people to be police officers,” New Hope Police Chief Tim Hoyt explained.
“People who have not applied, we need you to be a police officer. You may have the next great answer that will help us,” Chief Hoyt told the public.
The police chiefs said summer could be a tipping point for violent crime and said they were afraid the current crime statistics could become the norm in the suburbs, KMSP reported.