Mpls residents who sued the city for more cops will have their day in the MN Supreme Court

The Minnesota Supreme Court will consider a lower court ruling requiring the city of Minneapolis to maintain a minimum level of 731 police officers by the end of June.

In 2021, a Hennepin County judge sided with a group of north Minneapolis residents who sued the city, saying it had failed to meet the minimum staffing requirements for the MPD such than set out in the charter.

In March, the Minnesota Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

In its reversal, the three-judge panel said the charter required the city council to “continuously fund” a police force of a minimum size, but said there was “no clear obligation under of the charter for the mayor to permanently employ” this minimum number. .

Residents have vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court following the panel’s decision.

They filed the lawsuit in August 2020 as community activists, along with city council members, called for the Minneapolis Police Department to be replaced with a new agency in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The number of officers declined while gun violence and homicides rose sharply from the previous year. The plaintiffs said they were directly affected by the increase in crime in their neighborhoods and they said the decrease in the number of officers was partly responsible.

Attorney Doug Seaton of the Upper Midwest Law Center represents the plaintiffs.

“We’re glad the Supreme Court sees this as an important case that it should take on, and our clients are thrilled,” Seaton said. “They have neighbors who are leaving because they are so frustrated and scared by the violence that has been going on for two years.”

Seaton said if the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs, the city will have to explain why it was unable to reach the required number of officers by June 30, if that is the case at that time. From there, the Court could impose sanctions or other requirements.

Minneapolis police did not provide the number of officers it is looking to hire or how close the department is to 731.

Minneapolis Police Department Chief of Staff Christopher Gaiters leads recruiting efforts for the department. Gaiters said the department is authorized to have 888 sworn officers, which is its ultimate goal.

“Individuals that have a lot of character, that’s paramount,” Gaiters said.

Gaiters said that while there are short- and long-term paths to becoming a police officer, the fastest way to get more officers is to side-hire from other agencies. Gaiters said those officers would still be subject to background checks and would have to meet the criteria to be hired.

Gaiters said new officers will be encouraged to listen to critical feedback.

“That includes those who visit our city, those who trade and do business in our city,” Gaiters said. “It starts with listening, and it starts with listening to everyone.”

While MPD offers hiring incentives, including a $7,000 hiring bonus, Seaton said it’s too little too late.

The hearing in Minnesota Supreme Court will take place on June 9.

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