Eight Minneapolis residents filed a lawsuit Monday against the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey for their failure to adequately staff the city’s police department.
Due to a recent “exodus” of police officers, current employment levels at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) are far below the staffing requirements mandated in the City Charter.
“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,” states the lawsuit, which was filed in Hennepin County District Court.
“Rather than work to improve public safety, the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey are making the city unsafe for its citizens, thus requiring this Court’s intervention,” it says.
The MPD employed a force of approximately 825 officers at the beginning of 2020, but at least 80 officers have retired or quit in recent months – up from the annual average of 45. Mayor Frey said during last week’s budget address that he expects 100 officers to retire by the end of the year, but doesn’t plan to replace them because of a citywide hiring freeze.
To make matters worse, more than 200 officers had applied for disability as of the end of July. About 111 officers are on some type of medical leave, including 40 officers who submitted PTSD claims, according to the lawsuit.
As a result, the current number of officers employed in active duty on the MPD is 634 or fewer, and could sink to as little as 500 by the end of the year, the lawsuit estimates. Both of those figures are far below the City Charter’s required 743 officers.
“The safety of our families and community require an adequately staffed and deployed police force. The actions of the City Council and Mayor Frey in driving out unprecedented numbers of Minneapolis police officers, and then canceling all hiring of replacements, endangers our community, our residents and our children,” said Cathy Spann, one of the suit’s eight plaintiffs, who are represented by the Upper Midwest Law Center.
“We demand the City Council and Mayor comply with the Charter and, rather than ‘defund the police,’ take all necessary steps to increase the number of police in active service to the minimum of 743 officers required by the City Charter,” she continued.
As a mandamus action, the lawsuit asks the court to order Mayor Frey and the City Council to comply with the City Charter by taking the necessary steps to hire, train, fund and deploy a minimum of 743 officers.
“While the City Council claims that the Charter-required minimum number of armed police is not required for public safety, when it comes to their own safety, their actions stink of hypocrisy. Our legal petition points out that the City has paid $152,400 for armed protective agents for three City Council members – a private armed security force so the Council members do not need to rely on the disintegrating Minneapolis police force for their own protection,” Howard Root, chair of the Upper Midwest Law Center, said in a press release.
“So at the same time the City Council has determined that the citizens require less police protection, they have hired their own special private police force to provide added security for themselves at taxpayer expense,” he added.