Supreme Court Sides With Minneapolis Residents Suing Over Depleted Police Force

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The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a group of Minneapolis residents who were suing for an influx of crime to their neighborhood after the defund police movement. It ruled that the city is not employing the 731 officers it requires under its charter.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea issued the nine-page order Monday. It stems from a lawsuit brought to him by eight residents of North Side. They sued Mayor Jacob Frey, and the Minneapolis City Council, for failing to fulfill their obligation and fund and hire 0.0017 sworn officers per Minneapolis resident.

Based on the 2020 census, at least 731 officers should be on the force based on the city’s population.

The ruling says the City Council has followed through by allocating funding in the 2021 budget for 770 sworn officers – dozens more than required by the city charter.

Nevertheless, the number of officers in the force is still well below the 731 thresholds.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that as of May 31, there were only 621 officers on the Minneapolis Police Department’s payroll. 39 of them were on continuous leave for two weeks or more.

Since George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, and the subsequent riots, the Minneapolis Police Department has witnessed a more than 300 officer exodus. Although Minneapolis voters rejected a proposal to ax the police department to create a new public safety agency, it has been difficult to find new officers who are willing to accept the position.

James Dickey (the plaintiffs’ attorney) stated that “This is an enormous victory for our clients and the residents of Minneapolis.” “MPD has at least 100 officers below the required amount, and we are looking forward to seeing the evidence that the mayor and City Council did to change that.”

An earlier lower court ruled in favor of residents. However, an appellate court reversed that decision and stated that Frey’s “complete control” over the police department, as mayor, means that he has greater freedom to hire officers.

Monday’s ruling overturned that interpretation and sent the case back to the district court.

Gildea stated that the most recent amendment to the charter, which was made in 2013, provides that the mayor has all power related to the establishment and maintenance of, appointment, removal, discipline, and control of the police department. However, Gildea noted that there are limitations to ensuring that the department maintains a ratio of no less than 1.7 employees to every 1,000 residents.

Gildea stated that the state Supreme Court would release a detailed opinion on the matter in the future.

Frey and the city attorneys will present their reasons for not hiring more officers despite receiving the appropriate funding at a hearing scheduled for later this month.

Peter Ginder, interim City Attorney, stated that they are still reviewing the impact of the order and would be ready to appear in District Court. “The Minneapolis Police Department has lost nearly 300 peace officers in the past two years.”

The statement stated that this was an unprecedented loss of staff and could not be easily fixed. “Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis Police Department are working together in good faith to recruit more community-oriented peace officers as soon as possible. The City continues to invest in the police force, including additional funding for officer wellness programs and recruit classes.