It was a typical spring day in Duluth when a delivery driver rang the doorbell of a home on the west end to drop off an order. Before they could turn and leave the steps, their vehicle had been stolen. The shocked driver reports the incident to the Duluth Police Department only to be told they had no one to respond due to a shooting incident somewhere else in Duluth.
This example is something that has happened repeatedly in Duluth over the last few years.
Last week, the Duluth Police Union, Local 807 shared a post on their Facebook page discussing retention struggles in the department at a time when crime continues to rise in the city. Macrotrends.net reported that crime rose 13.74% between 2014 and 2015, and 10.72% between 2017 and 2018. Last year, Duluth saw a record number of shooting incidents in the city, nearly double the 23 shootings that occurred in 2019.
Neighborhoodscout.com reports the Duluth crime index at “5” out of 100, meaning the city is safer than only 5% of U.S. Cities. The site also reports that in Duluth the odds of being a victim of a violent crime are 1 in 291 compared to 1 in 423 throughout the state of Minnesota. The odds of being a property crime victim in Duluth are 1 in 23, compared to 1 in 48 in the state. The national median for property crime is 21 per 1000 residents, Duluth is 43.39 per 1000 residents.
Turnover in the local police department makes the task of getting crime under control even harder.
The Duluth Police Local 807 post starts, “We want to begin a discussion and provide some information regarding retention of Duluth Police Officers. You will see with the data provided that retention has become an issue in the last 10 years. Duluth Police officers lost a considerable benefit in 2007 when retiree health care benefits were no longer offered. Since then, our wages have fallen far behind comparable police departments and cities of similar size.”
Berry Dunn of the Police Local 807, did an organizational assessment to calculate the cost of each new hire, the total with training and equipping a new officer rang up to $50,000. “Every time we lose an officer to another agency, of which the majority of these separations are, we lose invaluable experience. We’ve lost officers that have won “Officer of the Year”, and officers that have ranged in experience from 1 year to almost 19 years experience,” explained the post.
The Duluth Police Department has lost 40 officers in the last ten years, costing the Duluth taxpayers $2 million dollars in finding, training, and equipping new hires. When officers have left for other departments they have gone to Burnsville, Bloomington, Maple Grove, Blaine, Plymouth, DNR, UMD-PD, St. Paul, and other agencies.
The retention problem for Duluth has become urgent, the post explains, “As less people go to school for policing, retaining the quality officers that we have right now is paramount. We are slated to lose over 1/3 (approximately 50 people) of our department to retirement in the next 3-5 years, and we are seeing officers retire early and take a hit on their pension to get out of our profession.” It’s not hard to understand why some officers want “out” with the recent progressive attitude toward policing in the last few years. Officers are being attacked, “cancelled”, or simply disrespected for simply wearing the uniform. With major cities like Minneapolis pushing to defund and disband their police departments and the likelihood that a liberal city like Duluth would do the same, it’s no mystery that those who have pledged to protect and serve might choose to instead protect themselves and their families by walking away.
The Duluth Police Union states, “We know from speaking with officers that have left, that pay was a major issue. We also have shown in previous posts that as our wages have fallen behind, so has the number of applicants applying for the Duluth PD.” The post continues, “We must fix our recruiting and retention issues now, or we fear as your police officers where the Duluth Police will be in 3-5 years. We are trying to work with our city to return Duluth to a destination department so we can provide the high level of service citizens expect, and to make sure that we are keeping the best and brightest to deal with many of the issues and high call loads our officers are consistently facing.”
The City of Duluth needs to listen to not only the officers that are on the streets face-to-face with the crime, drugs, shootings, and stabbings that have become commonplace headlines for our city in the last three years but also the businesses and citizens of Duluth that are scared and outraged at the state of our city, especially in the Downtown, Hillside, Lincoln Park and West Duluth areas.
For years, the City has ignored concerns and complaints that have led to the dismal situation we are in now. In a couple weeks, tourists, mainly families with young children, will be driving to our Lake Superior shore and will leave with stories – not of ships going under the lift bridge, but of the drug paraphernalia they had to pull their child from, or the homeless person that pounded on their vehicle at a stoplight, or the heaps of garbage around a homeless encampment.
When our dire situation is shared with those in power, the response is that “it’s happening everywhere”. No, it’s not. It’s happening in cities with a particular type of leadership. The type that doesn’t value police and businesses. The type of city where leadership doesn’t focus on their civic priorities to maintain the infrastructure, reduce crime, and protect taxpayers before focusing on “woke” ideals that, when they trump all other responsibilities, leave a city looking like 2021 Duluth.
It is imperative that our ‘woke’ leaders open their eyes to the real world. Fortifying our police department is the first step toward fixing what they’ve done to Duluth. Step two is taking a good hard look at how they’ve neglected the people and businesses that fund our city, and making their contribution count before they pack up and take their tax dollars with them.