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The Minnesota Supreme Court delivered a win Monday for a group of Minneapolis residents who have been suing over an influx of crime into their neighborhood following the defund police movement, ruling the city is not hiring the approximately 731 police officers required under its charter.
The nine-page order, issued Monday by Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea, stems from a lawsuit brought by a group of eight North Side residents who sued Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council for not fulfilling their obligation to fund and employ 0.0017 sworn police 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.
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Yet, the number of officers on the force still sits well below the 731 threshold.
As of late May, the Minneapolis Police Department had just 621 officers on the payroll, including 39 on continuous leave of two weeks or longer, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The Minneapolis Police Department has seen on exodus of more than 300 officers since the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the riots and anti-police protests that followed. Though Minneapolis voters last November rejected a proposal that would axe the police department and establish a new public safety agency, the force has struggled to recruit new officers willing to take the job.
“This is a huge victory for our clients and the residents of Minneapolis,” James Dickey, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told FOX 9 Minneapolis. “MPD is under the required amount by at least 100 officers, and we look forward to seeing the evidence of what the mayor and City Council have done to change that.”
A lower court previously ruled in favor of the residents, but an appellate court later reversed that decision, saying that although city council provided the funding, the charter “does not impose a corresponding duty to employ this minimum number of officers” on Frey, whose “complete power” over the police department as mayor gives him greater discretion on how many to ultimately hire.
Monday’s ruling pushed back on that interpretation of the charter and sent the case back to district court.
Gildea said the most recent 2013 amendment of the charter specifies that the mayor be vested with all powers related to the establishment, maintenance, appointment, removal, discipline, control and supervision of the police department “subject to the limitations” that the department still maintain the appropriate ratio of no less than 1.7 employees per 1,000 of the city population.
Gildea added the state Supreme Court will release a more detailed opinion on the matter in the future.
A hearing is scheduled for later this month in which Frey and city attorneys will explain why more officers have not been hired despite having the allocated funding.
“We are still reviewing the full impact of this order and will be prepared to appear in district court,” interim City Attorney Peter Ginder said in a statement provided to FOX 9 Minneapolis. “Over the last two years, the Minneapolis Police Department has lost almost 300 peace officers.”
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“This is an unprecedented loss of personnel that is not easily corrected,” the statement continued. “Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis Police Department, and City are working in good faith to recruit and hire more community oriented peace officers as quickly as reasonably possible. From additional funding for recruit classes and officer wellness programming to hiring bonuses, the City is continuing to work to rebuild the police force to full strength.”