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Majority of St. Paul city council members support adding 2nd police academy next year to fill vacancies

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Majority of St. Paul city council members support adding 2nd police academy next year to fill vacancies

A majority of the St. Paul city council supports adding a second police academy to next year’s budget — the goal is to keep the department at its authorized strength without dipping to the low numbers seen recently.

Discussions about officer staffing were already underway before a shootout in a West Seventh Street bar injured 15 people and killed Marquisha Wiley, a 27-year-old bystander, on Oct. 10.

What has changed since the shootings is that many city council members are being “really clear” about supporting two police academies for next year and talking about it publicly, said Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who represents the area of the Seventh Street Truck Park, the food hall and bar where the violence erupted.

The chief executive officers of Securian Financial and Ecolab wrote to Mayor Melvin Carter last week and urged him to take a bolder stand against crime, especially downtown. City council members also received copies and Jane Prince wrote back to them on Sunday.

“The Administration needs to work more cooperatively with the law enforcement professionals in our midst, who are among the most respected in their fields,” Prince wrote in a letter that Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher posted on Facebook. “Mayor Carter is unable to admit that he needs help. He and his team appear to operate in an echo chamber where its best ideas are the only ideas they will consider.”

MAYOR ‘FOCUSED ON CONNECTING’ WITH RESIDENTS, LEADERS

Carter has not seen Prince’s letter, said Peter Leggett, the mayor’s communications director.

Melvin Carter (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

“In the days since the unprecedented mass shooting, the mayor has remained focused on connecting with residents and leaders from across our community as all of us continue to offer support to the victims, their loved ones, and all those impacted by this senseless violence,” Leggett said in a statement.

Over the past three years, proposals that Carter brought before the city council increased the police budget by more than $10 million, according to the mayor’s office. Carter is running for reelection in November.

Carter spoke with the leaders of Securian and Ecolab after receiving their letters “to thank them for their ongoing engagement and to discuss our ongoing work to build the most comprehensive, coordinated, and data-driven approach to public safety our city has ever endeavored,” Leggett said.

NUMBER OF OFFICERS HAS BEEN ON DECLINE

Carter’s proposed police general fund budget for next year is $104 million, about $754,000 less than this year’s budget because some work is being transferred to other departments. Overall, the 2022 proposal equates to a $4.3 million general fund budget increase for the police department — the most of any city department — including cost-of-living increases and funding for the Law Enforcement Career Path Academy, St. Paul Financial Services director John McCarthy previously said.

Police Chief Todd Axtell told the city council on Sept. 1 that next year’s budget would not allow him to get the department back to adequate staffing, and requested additional funding to fill vacancies. He said he hadn’t been able to hold a police academy since 2019 and, at the same time, the department has seen more officers leaving than normal. The academies are the way that officers are brought onto the department.

By the end of this year, the department anticipates being down 81 officers. There are 65 people in the St. Paul police academy that began this month. They are due to graduate in February and to complete field training by July, when they’ll be “street ready.”

The department’s authorized strength is 620. Not counting the trainees, there are currently 561 officers on the payroll; 524 of them are available to work in full capacity — the remainder are on medical leave, military duty or light duty due to injury or a medical condition.

Majority of St Paul city council members support adding 2nd
Jane Prince (Courtesy of St. Paul)

“For at least two years, Chief Todd Axtell has put forward two options to address this problem,” Prince wrote in her letters to the CEOs. “The first is to add a second police academy in the first half of the year, to hire up to authorized strength two times per year. … Instead, Mayor Carter has followed the budgeting maneuver of previous administrations requiring $2M (in 2021 and $3.8M in 2020) in attrition savings before the first replacement can be hired, forcing the department to operate at severely reduced levels putting our entire community at risk.”

The city asked departments to take cost-saving measures in 2020 and this year due to the pandemic, which avoided city layoffs or dipping into budget reserves and did not raise the city’s tax levy. For the police department, it meant not holding police academies to bring on new officers.

Carter’s 2022 proposal restores the attrition budget that was reduced in 2021 amid the pandemic and will ensure the police department can hire up to its authorized strength, which was bolstered by Carter’s approval of moving forward with a police academy this fall — one of the largest in the city’s history, Leggett said.

In Minneapolis, meanwhile, a ballot proposal is asking voters whether they want to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach” that “could include” police officers “if necessary.”

NOT ALL COUNCIL MEMBERS AGREE

It would take additional funding in St. Paul of about $1.8 million from the city for a second academy next year, coupled with a $1.25 million annual federal grant the police department has applied for, according to a St. Paul police spokesperson.

Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher has discussed the possibility of an additional academy with Council President Amy Brendmoen, and “Carter looks forward to a conversation with the Council about this,” Leggett said.

City council members said this week they are determining where in the 2022 budget the funding would come from. They are due to vote on next year’s budget in December. The mayor has line-item veto authority over the council’s adopted budget.

1634781425 8 Majority of St Paul city council members support adding 2nd
Nelsie Yang (Courtesy photo)

Council member Nelsie Yang will vote against a budget that includes a second police academy because she said “people-centered solutions are really important.”

“When we look at the violence that we see all throughout our city, it really goes deeper than just having policing be our solution for this,” she said. “What’s really important is making sure that we do find ways to keep supporting our families, connecting them with … social services and economic opportunities that would actually lift them out of the out of the poverty that they do live in, but also the social issues that we see happening across across our city.”

Axtell said Wednesday that having additional officers working early on the morning of Oct. 10 “most likely would not have prevented this tragedy” that happened in the bar shooting. “However, it’s important to note that having adequate investigative personnel,” in addition to officers on patrol “goes a long way in helping us determine who is carrying illegal guns in our community,” he added.

Both men charged in the case were not permitted to possess guns due to past convictions, according to criminal complaints.

SERIOUS CRIME DOWN OVERALL, HOMICIDES TRENDING UP

Serious crime is down 4 percent so far this year, compared to the same period last year in St. Paul. There has been a 28.5 percent drop in robberies and a 6 percent drop in aggravated assaults.

Homicides, however, are up — there have been 32 people killed; there were a total of 34 homicides throughout last year, which matched the most on record set in St. Paul in 1992. There have been 203 people injured or killed in shootings this year, compared with 169 at the same time last year, according to the police department.

Council member Chris Tolbert, who also supports a second police academy for next year, said having a city where people “feel and are safe” takes “a multi-layered approach.”

Carter previously announced that he’s launching the Office of Neighborhood Safety, which was among the recommendations of the Community First Public Safety Commission in May, to be housed in City Attorney Lyndsey Olson’s office. The city council heard from Olson on Wednesday, during their regular budget presentations from department heads.

The Office of Neighborhood Safety, with a proposed budget of $1.25 million for next year, includes focusing on gun violence and youth violence; providing programming for people under 24; working with neighborhoods most impacted by violence; focusing on crime prevention programming; and partnering with other government entities and community-based organizations, Olson said.

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Teen dies after being shot in Denver, and a juvenile suspect has been arrested

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100-year-old Longmont man assaulted along Main Street has died

A teenager has died after being shot in southwest Denver and a juvenile suspect was arrested in the case.

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Alec Baldwin to ABC about shooting: “I didn’t pull the trigger”

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Alec Baldwin to ABC about shooting: “I didn’t pull the trigger”

NEW YORK — Alec Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview airing Thursday that he did not pull the trigger on a prop gun he was holding on a New Mexico film set when it went off, killing a cinematographer.

“I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”

It is Baldwin’s first sitdown interview since the Oct. 21 shooting on the set of the western film “Rust.” Authorities have said Baldwin was told the gun was safe to handle but continue to investigate how a live round ended up in the weapon.

ABC released a clip Wednesday that shows Baldwin breaking down in tears while describing Halyna Hutchins, the cinematographer who was killed on the set. Director Joel Souza was also wounded.

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Giants cagey about Daniel Jones’ neck injury as QB is limited in walkthrough practice

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Giants cagey about Daniel Jones’ neck injury as QB is limited in walkthrough practice

One Joe Judge comment stood out above all the others Wednesday.

The Giants’ head coach was asked if there is concern Daniel Jones’ neck strain could be a season-ending injury.

“At this moment, no,” Judge said.

The coach’s hedging provided an adequate summary of where Jones’ injury stands: somewhere in the gray.

The third-year quarterback — who is considered week-to-week, according to sources — was limited in a quick walkthrough practice. He conducted his weekly press conference and said he’s “feeling good” and “preparing to play” Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

But a lot of that felt like gamesmanship.

Judge prefers to keep injury information in-house. Since Jones’ injury got out, Wednesday felt like the Giants trying to overcorrect and create uncertainty for the Dolphins (5-7).

The Giants even waited longer than usual for the media to leave after the brief viewing period at the start of practice. The offensive huddle stayed on the sideline waiting for reporters to depart so they wouldn’t tip off which players took the field.

Jones always tries to play through injuries. His desire to play isn’t the issue, though. Backup Mike Glennon is still expected to start as the Giants (4-7) seek a second straight win.

“There’s a number of things the trainers and doctors want to see,” Jones said of his “sore” neck. “But my focus is to continue to improve and get better and put that [decision] in their hands come this weekend.”

Jones did say he doesn’t believe this is season-ending, although clearly there have been discussions the past couple days about just how bad it was.

“I don’t know,” Jones said. “I think there was obviously a series of tests and conversations with doctors, and I always understood it to be something I could recover from and get back out there.”

Judge said “we’re not gonna rule anything out right now” on Jones’ status for Sunday. However, the head coach admitted that the timing of Tuesday’s signing of quarterback Jake Fromm off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad was motivated by Jones’ injury.

“When you first get any kind of flag on any player … you immediately say, ‘OK, what kind of insurance do we need for the game right now?’” Judge said. “And then it was an opportunity for us to add a player we liked in college and the draft.”

Fromm was not available to the media after his first practice with the team.

Jones, despite dealing with his neck injury, surprisingly has not been evaluated for a concussion during or since Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, per Judge and the team.

The coach said he did not know about Jones’ injury until “our post-game injury report on Monday.” Asked if Jones had said anything about the injury during Sunday’s game, Judge said: “Nothing to me.”

Jones said he felt OK during the game even after sustaining the injury on the second play from scrimmage. Then “after the game it was sore” and “I woke up [Monday] and it was sore.”

The quarterback said he doesn’t want to miss time. He never does.

“I feel that responsibility to be out there,” he said. “I never want to miss games. As a quarterback you never want to miss any time. That’s my focus is to get back and be ready to play… My focus is to get back this week.”

The Giants have recent experience with rushing Jones back too quickly and seeing it backfire, though.

Last season, Jones played on a right hamstring strain in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals. He couldn’t move, got tuned up by the Cardinals’ pass rush, and sprained his left ankle. He then had to sit out the following week’s 20-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

“I think every injury is completely independent of another one,” Judge said, when asked if the Giants had learned a lesson from last year. “The medical team’s got to do their job in terms of determining if somebody’s healthy enough to go on the field. And I’ll do my job of getting him prepared for football.”

Jones said there has been no discussion of any shot or painkiller being required to help him manage the injury. He said the Giants and Jones “have a pretty clear understanding of what it is” and now it’s “just about treating it.”

The quarterback stressed that he’s tried hard this season to protect himself better when running, though this is the second time this season he has gotten hurt by lowering his head forward.

“It’s something I’ve been focused on this season is to get down and avoid some of those hits,” he said. “I’ve just got to continue to do that. It can be tough at times, but it’s something you’ve got to be able to do.”

He’ll have to get better at it if he wants to use his athleticism to his advantage — that is, whenever he does get back in an actual game.

TONEY’S INJURY RE-CLASSIFIED

Kadarius Toney missed last Sunday’s win over the Eagles with what the Giants called a “quad” injury. On Wednesday, the team changed that designation to an “oblique/quad” injury, and Toney continued to sit out practice. Toney had pointed to his left hip when he got hurt in Tampa on Nov. 22, so it makes sense that his injury is more than a quad.

Since the start of training camp, Toney has missed practice or game time due to a positive COVID-19 test and injuries to his thumb, ankle, hamstring, quad and oblique.

Jones was the only player listed as limited in Wednesday’s walkthrough. A laundry list of players were non-participants: Toney (oblique/quad), wideout Sterling Shepard (quad), tight end Kyle Rudolph (right ankle), corner Adoree Jackson (quad), tight end Kaden Smith (knee), wideout John Ross (illness), edge Trent Harris (ankle) and special teamer Cullen Gillaspia (calf).

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