Duluth Police Chief Talks Challenges, 2016 Goals
Chief: More Officers Needed On Streets
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In a two-part special report. FOX 21’s Dan Hanger sits down one-on-one with the chiefs of the Duluth police and fire departments to talk about accomplishments, struggles and 2016 goals.
We begin with Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, who is recording the lowest number of violent crimes in five years – all while calls for service are way up and staffing stays stagnant or event cut back.
Ramsay has been Duluth’s top cop since 2006, and he’s proud of his 153 officers.
“We are so fortunate to have the work ethic, the dedicated officers that we have,” Ramsay said.
Clearly, the quality hires are paying off with violent crimes for 2015 at its lowest since 2010.
“We work to hire work ethic, compassion, caring individuals. And they care about making this a better city,” Ramsay said.
But Ramsay believes his department is at capacity and in serious need of additional officers.
“I think officers are feeling pressure that they need to resolve one incident and get on to the next. And sometimes that may cause them to talk a little less and go toward hands-on. And that’s what we want to avoid,” Ramsay said.
Calls for service are at an all-time 2015 projected high at 108,922 compared to 80,800 in 2010.
“People have different expectations from the police. You know, where as you used to talk to your neighbors if there was loud music or a parking issue. Now, they call us,” Ramsay explained.
Mental health calls are nearly double at 4,370 compared to 2,306 in 2010.
Heroin-related events have risen to a project 395 incidents for 2015 compared to only 14 in 2010.
And the investigative unit is taking on a 2015 project total of 9,132 referrals compared to 4,930 in 2010.
“All that means more work for police, but yet our staffing has remained stagnant or has gone down slightly despite these increases,” Ramsay said.
“It’s very frustrating for our staff,” he added.
While 2016 will not bring more officers, Chief Ramsay is getting creative by changing up traditional police scheduled to add more officers on the streets at peak times.
“We will go from having 12-13 during the busy times of the day to low 20s,” Ramsay said.
It’s just another way Ramsay believes his men and women will make a difference this coming year.
But he stresses, the department can’t handle much more without more officers.
“If you want to do traditional policing and just go call to call, you can do that with bare-bone staffing, but if you really want to get to the problem and work with people on problem solving and collaboration, you need cops and time to do that.”
2016 will also bring Ramsay to the state capital.
He wants to get a law changed that requires all Minnesota police officers to have a four-year degree in criminal justice.
He says the law prevents qualified and diverse candidates from joining the Duluth Police Department.
“If you have a four-year degree in business, that’s as valuable as a criminal justice degree, or psychology or social work because you’ve done other things, you have other life experiences,” Ramsay said.
Ramsay also believes the chance would allow his department to hire more minorities who better reflect the community.
Monday night on FOX 21 News at 9, Hanger will sit down with Duluth acting Fire Chief Erik Simonson.