Eight Minneapolis residents filed a lawsuit Monday against the City of Minneapolis and Mayor Jacob Frey for the negative repercussions of defunding the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The plaintiffs allege that city officials’ words and actions concerning law enforcement caused a severe uptick in Metro’s crime rates.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMWLC), who issued a press release the day after the suit was filed.
“The petition alleges Minneapolis’s leaders have violated their duties to fund, employ and manage a police force as required by the City Charter. Rather than work to improve public safety, the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey are making the city a more dangerous place through defunding, imposing a hiring freeze, cancelling training, and public disparagement of the MPD, causing police departments to retire, quit, take medical leave and make disability claims in unprecedented numbers without replacements.”
The lawsuit emphasizes the disparity between the number of officers required to be employed versus the number of officers currently serving Minneapolis. The UMWLC and their plaintiffs reference Section 7.3, Subsection (c) of the city’s charter, which states that the city must “fund a police force of at least .00017 employees per resident.”
The city’s current population sits at over 425,000 residents, which would mean that about 743 officers should be employed. At the start of 2020, the city had around 825 officers; not long after the first riots following Floyd’s killing, 65 officers left. Since then, over 200 officers have applied to leave through disability and 80 officers have retired or quit. The annual average of MPD officers who leave is 45.
The lawsuit began as correspondence between the UMWLC on behalf of the eight petitioners and Minneapolis’ Interim City Attorney Erik Nilsson. In the initial letter from August 4 the UMWLC and petitioners notified the city and mayor of their violation of the city charter. The letter accused city officials of not maintaining the legal amount of police officers per citizen, and of hiring armed protective agents with taxpayer dollars to protect council members instead of the MPD.
“[Y]our recent words and actions disparaging the Minneapolis Police Department, your failing to abide by the Charter, and your pushing of Charter Amendments to abandon the peace officer formula commitment, are making the City of Minneapolis unsafe,” the lawsuit says.
Nilsson dismissed every accusation, countering that the claims were “not susceptible to a legal response.” Nilsson also stated that the charter requirement was actually referring to funding, not a quantifiable number of officers.
The UMWLC then sent another letter informing of their decision to seek the matter further in court.
“If you [Nilsson] were correct, the [charter] section should have been written as requiring a certain percentage of the budget or a specific constant dollar amount per capita,” the UMWLC legal team wrote. “Instead, it is an actual peace officer per capita requirement, for the very good reason that citizens are protected by actual peace officers and not by dollars appropriated.”
The lawsuit was then filed in Hennepin County State District Court as a mandamus action. This would have the court compel city officials to “take all necessary steps to hire, train, fund and deploy a minimum of 743 licensed police officers.”
MPD officers will continue to decline in numbers. Frey stated in his budget address last week that an additional estimated 100 officers would leave the force by year’s end – they would not be replaced due to a hiring freeze. The MPD has also suspended their upcoming academy training for the fall.
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