A Minneapolis judge has sided with residents who sued the city over police staffing levels, saying the mayor and City Council failed to keep the adequate number of officers required by the municipal charter.
Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson’s order to add officers to the Minneapolis Police Department comes amid a citywide spike in violent crime and calls to defund the police after the May 2020 death of George Floyd.
Anderson’s ruling, delivered on Thursday, said Mayor Jacob Frey and the council in understaffing the police force “failed to perform an official duty clearly imposed by law.”
Frey’s office, in a statement, declined comment on the lawsuit but said the mayor “will continue working to increase officer staffing levels” and supports “recruiting more community-minded officers.”
On April 10, there were 743 city police officers, with 92 on leave, according to the court order.
The city had projected it would have 690 sworn officers on payroll and 46 on long-term leave by June 1, the order said. But city officials projected only 669 officers on the job by June 1, 2022 — and 721 on January 1, 2023.
City data shows as of late May there were 699 sworn officers with 67 of them on leave, down significantly from early January 2019 when there were 910 sworn officers with only 35 on continuous leave.
The Minneapolis City Charter requires at least 0.0017 sworn officers per resident — about 730 officers or more if necessary once the 2020 Census is published.
“This is a huge victory for the Petitioners and all residents of Minneapolis, especially those in the most diverse neighborhoods feeling the brunt of rising crime rates,” Doug Seaton, president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, said in a statement.
The nonprofit law firm, which is part of the conservative Minnesota think tank the Center of the American Experiment, filed the suit last year on behalf of eight White and Black residents of high-crime neighborhoods.
“We applaud the Court’s decision and look forward to swift action by the City Council and Mayor to fund the police and ensure the safety of all Minneapolitans,” Seaton added.
Violent crime in the city is at a five-year high. There have been 41 homicides in Minneapolis so far this year compared to 28 during the same period in 2020.
Anderson ordered Frey and the council to “immediately take any and all necessary action” to have at least 730 sworn officers by June 30, 2022.
“If the City is not proactive in anticipating what will be required of it in coming years, it will constantly be behind — constantly underperforming and, as a result, understaffing the police force,” the judge wrote.
In May, Frey’s public safety proposal said his office had “set an aggressive timeline” for 700 officers by the end of next year and 888 by the end of 2023.
The city hopes to replenish police ranks with “two more recruit classes by the end of this year,” according to the proposal.
Last week, Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed Floyd by kneeling on the neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, was sentenced to 22 and half years in prison. Floyd’s death set off mass protests around the globe and a movement across the United States to slash police funding and implement reforms.
“If we are successful … in stopping defunding and revitalizing the hiring of police and increasing their numbers in Minneapolis, we’re hopeful that will inspire people around the country to take similar steps,” Seaton said.
“We’re very hopeful that others will take up whatever legal tools they have to challenge this action.”