Moorhead police officers each respond to about 1,000 calls a year
Moorhead police sergeant presents a preview of 2021 statistics to human rights panel.
MOORHEAD — Although the number of calls for service are down for Moorhead police patrol officers from two years ago, the data can be a bit misleading.
Sgt. Chris Martin presented a preview of 2021 statistics to the city's Human Rights Commission this past week, which showed 35,389 calls last year. That was up from 32,834 in 2020, but down from 40,099 in 2019 and 39,678 in 2018.
Martin said one of the reasons for the decline is that some residents who call can go to the police website to report incidents, which reduces the need for an officer to respond.
Yet, he said with the department basically down three patrol officers and with four in training who must be accompanied by another officer currently, the average number of calls an officer responds to is more than 1,000 a year.
"The calls per day per officer is a dramatic increase," said City Council member Deb White, who is also on the human rights panel.
"It's shocking, the time and stress involved," she said.
Also involved in the workload is traffic stops, which are also down drastically from 10,117 in 2018 to 3,924 last year. Martin said they have been cutting back on stops because of COVID-19 to prevent some interactions between officers and residents. In 2020, the number had fallen already to 4,685.
Martin said the department is budgeted for 36 officers on patrol each week on the various shifts, about half the number slated for patrol in Fargo.
However, despite being down officers, Martin said four newly hired officers are in six months of additional training, thus they basically can't be counted on the full roster as they have to accompany another officer on any call. He said the four should all complete the extra training within about two months. Another of those newly hired officers also just completed his training late last week, Martin said.
Martin added that three other officers will start in March and they will have to be paired up with another officer for six months, too.
Just as in other law enforcement agencies, he said officer candidate numbers are way down. He recalled being one of hundreds who were interested and attended recruiting sessions when he started back in the early 2000s. Last year at a session, he said there were about 20 who showed up.
He said the department mostly attracts younger men and women who earn law enforcement degrees at universities or go through technical and community college specific programs. Of the 11 officers hired last year, he said there was only one that had previous experience.
Besides the patrol officers, Martin said the department includes detectives, supervising sergeants and administrators, and is budgeted for 61 staff members.
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As for the type of calls officers respond to, he said last year the No. 1 type of call was for "disturbances," which can include domestic incidents or other complaints, at 3,441, or an average of 9.43 per day.
The next largest number last year was for suspicious activity at 2,339 (6.57 calls per day), public assistance at 2,032 (5.57 per day), medical assistance at 1,624 (4.45 per day) and animal calls at 1,487 (4 per day).
All other types of calls were under 1,000 for the year.
Another major chore for police is responding to vehicle accidents, which have been decreasing. The total number fell from 1,019 four years ago to 820 in the past year, while those with injuries also dropped from a peak of 169 three years ago to 129 last year. Injury accidents during the pandemic year in 2020 were 103.
As for the burglaries and other statistics, White suggested that the city's increasing population likely has something to do with the numbers.
Martin said some didn't think police were doing vehicle unlocking calls anymore, which numbered 393 last year, but he said the students in the police cadet program respond to those calls as well as to some parking complaints, which numbered 607 last year.
Martin said the numbers weren't completely verified, but were put together and should be close to the final report.
Clarification: The number of officers on patrol has been adjusted to more accurately reflect the officers available to help respond to calls, according to a clarification from Martin.