Minneapolis residents take police staffing case to Supreme Court

The Upper Midwest Law Center is petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to reinstate a Hennepin County District Court order.

Kyle Hooten/Alpha News

Eight residents of north Minneapolis are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision that Mayor Jacob Frey has no legal obligation to employ a minimum number of police officers.

On behalf of the eight residents, the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) is petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to reinstate a Hennepin County District Court order that the city of Minneapolis “immediately take any and all necessary action to ensure that they fund a police force of at least 731 sworn officers,” according to a press release.

In its overturning of the district court order, the Minnesota Court of Appeals granted that the Minneapolis City Council has a legal obligation to “continuously fund a police force with a minimum number of sworn police officers,” but maintained that the charter imposes no legal obligation 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 court said.

Per the UMLC’s appeal, the only “reasonable interpretation” of the City Charter is that the mayor must employ 731 sworn officers in the Minneapolis Police Department. The language of the charter says “the Mayor has complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department.”

The appeal is also seeking an answer on insufficient police funding, pointing out how the Minnesota Court of Appeals failed to address it.

In addition to the appeal itself, the UMLC has filed a motion to expedite the appeal, arguing that nothing less than the safety of Minneapolis residents is at stake.

“The record in this case is replete with pages upon pages of the Petitioners’ testimony of their suffering because of the lack of police protection on the North Side of Minneapolis, and Mayor Frey’s admissions that a lack of police presence causes their suffering,” the motion reads.

Alpha News has previously covered the rampant crime and incessant gun shots taking place in north Minneapolis.

“This is not ‘North being North.’ This is new and it’s worse than it’s been before,” a resident who shared home security video recording an eruption of gunfire told Alpha News. “I can only remember close gunshots happening maybe a few times a year. Now gunfire is a weekly occurrence … we even had a bullet hit our house … and then later another shot going through a porch window.”

UMLC senior trial counsel James Dickey previously said the appeals court’s decision creates a “ghost force” of police officers.

“According to the court, as long as the City Council writes down a number of officers on paper, that’s good enough, even though the money isn’t actually there to fund the actual number of officers,” he said.

“If you have a number on paper that says 750 officers but then you have 250 on the force, have you really provided the funds for it? The answer that we thought is no,” he added.

Then in the UMLC’s Friday press release, Dickey expressed confidence in the Minnesota Supreme Court to reinstate the Hennepin County District Court’s decision.

“The court of appeals admitted that our clients’ position is ‘logical.’ It is also the only reasonable conclusion under the law,” he said. “Our clients and their Northside neighbors simply deserve the police protection that the charter requires.”