The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday overturned a lower court ruling that directed the city of Minneapolis to “immediately take any and all necessary action” to properly staff its police department.
“The central legal issue before us is whether section 7.3 of the city charter clearly imposes a duty on the city council and the mayor to not just fund but also to continuously employ a minimum number of police officers,” the appeals court said.
The court found that the charter “clearly imposes a duty on the city council to continuously fund a police force with a minimum number of sworn police officers, but the charter does not clearly impose a duty on the mayor to continuously employ that same minimum number of sworn police officers.”
“The mayor’s duty under the charter to maintain the police department is a discretionary duty,” the appeals court said.
The ruling overturns a July 2021 order from Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson, who directed the city to immediately take action to fund and employ a police force of at least 731 officers.
Anderson said in her ruling that Minneapolis expects to have 669 sworn officers by July 2022 — a projection that falls “significantly below” the number mandated by the City Charter.
“The Court believes the City has a responsibility to keep up with projected census numbers as each 10-year period approaches. As is the case from 2010 to 2020, population in Minneapolis has increased dramatically. 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,” Anderson wrote in her order.
The case began when eight north Minneapolis residents sued the city in August 2020 with the help of the Upper Midwest Law Center.
“Minneapolis is in a crisis. 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, the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey have violated their duties to fund, employ and manage a police force as required by the City Charter,” that lawsuit said.
The Upper Midwest Law Center said it will immediately file an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court and seek an expedited review.
“Today’s ruling is a giant setback for the safety and security of Minneapolis residents,” said President Doug Seaton. “This appeal sets a dangerous precedent that will reignite efforts to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department by the City Council. Upper Midwest Law Center will continue to fight on behalf of our clients, and all Minneapolis residents who reaffirmed the City Charter’s requirements last November, to restore peace and order.”