MINNEAPOLIS – The Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) sent a letter Monday to the City of Minneapolis demanding that the city fulfill its obligation to fund, employ, and retain a minimum of 731 police officers.
In its letter, the UMLC, a public interest law firm that specializes in constitutional violations, called out Minneapolis for failing to abide by Minnesota Supreme Court case Spann v. Minneapolis City Council.
In that case, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the Minneapolis City Council has a legal obligation to provide funding for a minimum of 731 police officers as required by the Minneapolis City Charter. Additionally, the same ruling stated that the mayor of Minneapolis has a legal obligation to employ and retain a minimum of 731 police officers.
Despite the requirement, Minneapolis is still far short of this minimum standard. In October of 2023, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) had only 512 police officers. For context, MPD employed almost 900 police officers before riots engulfed the city in the summer of 2020.
“This problem is self-inflicted. It is directly caused by lack of funding and efforts to demoralize the MPD. Since June 7, 2020, when a veto-proof majority of the City Council announced to the world that they would defund and dismantle the MPD, they have taken every opportunity to do so,” the UMLC said in its letter.
Just last month, the Minneapolis City Council sank a proposal by Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis police chief Brian O’Hara to increase officer retention and provide incentives for new recruits. This $15 million plan allocated funds for retention bonuses of $18,000, and sign-on bonuses of $15,000.
The Minneapolis City Council rejected the plan by a vote of 8-5. The City Council approved a budget Tuesday that includes funding for 731 officers, but the funding levels are insufficient, according to UMLC.
“You can’t say you’re ‘funding’ 731 sworn officers if you put $731 in the budget and say that an officer is worth $1 per year,” explained James Dickey, senior counsel at UMLC.
“The Mayor has tried, but now the City Council refuses to fund the necessary compensation levels and hiring incentives to comply,” the UMLC said in Monday’s letter.
Spann v. Minneapolis City Council was originally filed in Hennepin County’s district court by eight citizens of Minneapolis in 2020. The UMLC represented the eight petitioners in their demand that the city adequately fund and staff the MPD. One of those petitioners was Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member and current candidate for Congress.
Eventually, that lawsuit went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court where Minneapolis was ordered to keep a minimum of 731 police officers on staff.
Regarding Minneapolis’s failure to meet this order, the UMLC said, “The City has had 28 months to come into compliance with the order. Despite the Mayor’s efforts, the City is now further away from the goal than the day the order was issued.”
In closing, the UMLC demanded that Minneapolis take “concrete measures” to meet the minimum staffing requirement of 731 police officers. Furthermore, the UMLC stated that if it did not receive written confirmation of such steps by Dec. 22, 2023, then the UMLC would “proceed with legal remedies.”
This article originally appeared at Alpha News and was reprinted with permission.