Officer up!

Minneapolis is still on the hook to replenish its police force.

After Minneapolis voted down the Charter amendment to defund its police department, the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) is renewing its legal call for the city council and Mayor Jacob Frey to fully staff and fund its atrophied police department, according to the requirements of its Charter.

James Dickey, senior trial counsel at UMLC in Spann, et al. v. Minneapolis City Counsil and Mayor Jacob Frey, explained why the city is still on the hook: “The Court ordered the city council and Mayor Frey to take action immediately to hire more officers to ensure compliance with the law. They have failed to do so.”

The lawsuit was first filed on August 17, 2020, on behalf of eight residents and taxpayers of Minneapolis, demanding Frey and the city council comply with the minimum policing requirements laid out in the Minneapolis City Charter. UMLC and its clients won the case, but instead of complying, the city appealed the ruling.

The suit argues the City Charter requires the mayor and the city council to fund 0.0017 police officers per citizen in Minneapolis. The population of Minneapolis is 429,954, according to 2020 census data. By law, Minneapolis is required to have .0017 police officers per resident, meaning the minimum should be 731 cops.

Even though the Hennepin County District Court issued a mandate on July 21, 2021, requiring the City to comply with the terms of this suit, the mayor and city council failed to do so. “The court ordered Minneapolis to take immediate action to make sure they are in compliance with the charter by next June,” Dickey explained. Right now, they are more than 70 officers below the minimum, and they appear to have taken zero action to comply with the Court order. “They seem to be putting all of their faith in their appeal. But if they lose again, they are likely to miss the deadline and possibly be in contempt of Court,” he said. “It’s a big problem when your elected officials intentionally break the law.”

No one doubts that Minneapolis is in a crisis, says Dickey. “The city faces a violent crime rate that has skyrocketed this year. It is the responsibility of the city council and the mayor to make Minneapolis safe. Instead, they violated their duties to fund, employ, and manage a police force as required by the City Charter. The city council and the mayor are required by the city charter to provide for public safety by funding and employing a working police force. The Charter gives the city council and the mayor complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department.”

Dickey says in order to meet the 731-officer minimum, recruiting and training must be a priority. The three Minneapolis Police Academies operate with the expectation that a total of 110 newly sworn police officers will graduate in the 2021 Academy sessions. With a shrinking pipeline of recruits from which to pull, and an already depleted pool of recruits, the city has a lot of ground to make up, and the prospect for the next three years looks bleak as the minimum requirement struggles to keep up with a growing population, according to Census Bureau estimates. The city’s appeal is scheduled to be heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on December 15.

“Our clients don’t have to take a bullet to have standing to enforce clear legal duties that are causing them harm” Dickey said, but the danger is close enough. “One of our client’s houses had just been shot – a bullet lodged just under their daughter’s bedroom window.”