Roseville PD asks city for more officers

Marks 2nd public safety staffing request of new year

 

Roseville’s top cops asked the city council during its Jan. 28 meeting for more police officers, citing a rising crime rate and fewer cases being cleared, among other factors.

The ask came just weeks after the city’s top fire officials requested funding for more firefighters.

“The sky is not falling but we are trending in an area that’s concerning,” said Police Chief Rick Mathwig. “It’s concerning to me as chief, it’s concerning to the people in Roseville.”

Mathwig is asking the city to budget for six new people — a detective and five officers — over the next two years. For 2020 he’s requesting funding to cover the detective and two officers, and in 2021, three more officers.

He’s also asked the city council to temporarily increase the authorized size of the police force from 48 to 50 members, in order for the Roseville Police Department to retain two community service officers who this summer will be ready to be hired as police officers.

He said there are no planned retirements that would accommodate the hires organically, and that the department has a history of losing personnel it has trained to nearby agencies.

The two community service officers speak non-English languages that are crucial to policing a diverse city such as Roseville, Mathwig said, and would help the department fulfill its commitment to diversity.

They could be hired this year at a cost of just less than $80,000 each, and Mathwig said he was confident existing money could cover the cost.

 

Rising crime rate

Mathwig set out the need for more police staff with the help of Deputy Chief Erika Scheider. 

The need comes down to six factors, they said: an increasing crime rate in Roseville, a decreasing rate of case clearances, more calls for service, the growing complexity of calls and investigations, more people and development in the city, and increased training demands.

While the state crime rate — that’s the number of crimes per 100,000 people — is down by 12 percent from 2010 to 2017, Roseville’s crime rate grew during that same period by 18 percent.

Mathwig pointed out other comparisons to illustrate the city’s jump in criminal activity. Roseville has the highest crime rate in Ramsey County, 8 percent higher than St. Paul and comparable to, yet slightly higher than Maplewood’s. Both violent and property crimes are up in the city, though others, such as auto thefts are down, because there is a dedicated person working auto theft cases.

Scheider said over the same period that the crime rate has been rising, the rate of cases cleared — they’re solved, there’s an arrest or some other sort of resolution — has gone down by 17 percent.

The state’s clearance rate, she said, is just less than 50 percent; Roseville’s was 35 percent in 2017. As of last year Scheider said the average caseload for a detective was 211, a number that’s been increasing steadily over the past decade. Roseville has seven detectives.

Regarding the number of calls and other interactions fielded by officers, Scheider said that last year an average of 113 incidents were handled each day by an average of seven officers.

Some 60 of those incidents were based on 911 calls, while the rest were actions initiated by officers — pulling cars over, checking on areas known for problems and interacting with people.

“That’s our department priority: we really are focusing on community outreach, traffic [enforcement], especially moving violations, and hot spots and problem properties,” said Scheider. 

She explained the department’s current daily police strength means officers are pulled away from working on department priorities to deal with 911 calls.

“We don’t have the time to actually devote to solve some of these problems,” said Scheider.

 

More factors

On the complexity of cases, Scheider said, there’s just more work to be done on a case-by-case basis, because of case law, opportunities for evidence and other considerations. She said a DWI arrest takes twice as long to process as it did a decade ago. 

There are more warrants and the work that comes with them because there’s more technology to search — in the case regarding pedestrians killed in January while crossing Larpenteur Avenue, investigators have already obtained nine warrants.

“That was unheard of 10 years ago,” Scheider said.

On Roseville’s growth, Mathwig said, more commerce and a slowly growing population amount to more calls.

“Roseville’s population hasn’t increased much, but whoa boy, we’ve been building things in Roseville for the past 10 years, which is great,” he said.

The places that draw people to the city — Walmart, Rosedale Center, Roseville’s 11 hotels and the Har Mar area — are so time-intensive for police that they’re a large factor in the department’s need for more people, Mathwig said.

Regarding training, it just takes officers’ time, Scheider said, pulling them off their regular duties because it would be too expensive to let officers take overtime pay to train. In 2018, Roseville officers devoted 112 out of their roughly 2,000 hours on the job that year to training.

 

Public support

Council members indicated they were in favor of hiring the community service officers on as full-time officers this summer, though because of council member Lisa Laliberte’s absence at the meeting, they’ll make that call at a later date.

The council will again discuss police department staffing at its Feb. 11 meeting, and the discussion of more officers in the 2020 budget will continue through the year, according to City Manager Pat Trudgeon.

Residents who spoke were strongly supportive of the police department’s request for more staffing, saying the tax implications would be worth it.

“I would be willing as a citizen to see my taxes go up and I think the city council needs to hear that,” said Nancy O’Brien. “I don’t want my taxes to go up, particularly, but if I want to live in a good, strong community, I recognize that this may be necessary.”

Residents were similarly supportive of Fire Chief Tim O’Neill’s Jan. 7 request for more firefighters. He said the number of calls the fire department receives is outpacing it’s longstanding staffing level, and requested nine more firefighters, which would cost the city up to $1 million a year.

 

–Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

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