MINNEAPOLIS – In November, voters in Minneapolis rejected a proposal that would have eliminated the police department and they also replaced five councilmembers who wanted cops gone. Suddenly, there seems to be a slight shift in the tide as the city has offered police officers $7,000 payments in an effort to “ensure adequate staffing” ahead of a court deadline to hire nearly 200 officers by this summer, according to documents released late Monday.
The apparent turn of events even comes on the heels of the Amir Locke shooting that had activists in a frenzy. The fatal shooting occurred during the service of a homicide-related search warrant.
Although Locke, 22, was not named on the warrant served by the Minneapolis Police Department on Feb. 2, he was on the couch covered in a blanket when officers made entry. Police opened fire when they saw the barrel of a gun come into view from beneath the blanket. He did not survive.
The warrant was related to a St. Paul homicide investigation. The 17-year-old suspect was later taken into custody, Law Officer reported.
Perhaps another reason for the apparent change in Minneapolis is because a majority of black voters actually want police presence since they know the value of having law enforcement officers patrolling their neighborhoods.
Regardless of the reason, the city offered the $7,000 payments — as well as raises and “market adjustments” — as part of a roughly $9 million deal with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. Furthermore, the agreement has support from progressive Mayor Jacob Frey, but still requires City Council approval, the Star Tribune reported.
The council was scheduled to discuss the tentative agreement Monday afternoon — before the new documents were released — but decided instead to take until March 22 to review it. Hence, this is not yet a done deal.
The 135-page contract with the police union covers a wide range of topics, including salaries, work schedules and discipline procedures.
The police union voted in late February to accept the deal. They were disappointed Monday when learning of the council’s decision to postpone its discussion.
Union president Sgt. Sherral Schmidt said in a statement that officers “have worked through some of the toughest times in Minneapolis history” and are “severely understaffed.”
“Our hope is the City Council will see how this agreement will help the city of Minneapolis become a competitive employer, in a difficult hiring environment,” Schmidt said. “This contract would be the beginning of being able to recruit and retain the best candidates in a limited job pool and recognizing the employees that have remained with the city.”
Officers — who’ve been working under an expired 2019 contract — would receive a 1% raise to wages and longevity pay for 2020, a 1.5% raise for 2021 and a 2.5% increase for 2022 — the bulk of which would be paid out retroactively. The proposal includes a 2.5% “market adjustment” effective at the beginning of this year and an additional 1% adjustment beginning Dec. 31.
Last summer, a Hennepin County District Court judge ordered Minneapolis to hire more police officers after ruling in favor of a group that sued the City Council over a rise in crime in Minnesota’s largest city, Law Officer reported.
According to the order by Judge Jamie L. Anderson, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey are ordered to “immediately take any and all necessary action to ensure that they fund a police force.”
As a result, the reluctant city government must employ 730 sworn police officers by June 30 to be in compliance with the minimum staffing requirements outlined in the charter that serves as the city’s constitution. If they fail to meet the mandate they will need to explain to the judge why they fell short.
Minneapolis currently employs about 544 officers, which is roughly 300 fewer than before George Floyd’s 2020 death, according to the Star Tribune.
Many officers left after filing PTSD claims, while others departed for employment with other agencies claiming to offer more stability or higher pay, not to mention better working environments.
City spokesman Casper Hill said the impact on individual officers’ salaries is still being calculated.
The deal calls for $7,000 “incentive” payments for new officers who complete training and current officers who remain on duty through the end of the year. It includes $2,500 annual payments for field training officers who remain “in good standing.”
Hill said the costs of the tentative agreement are incorporated in the previously approved police budget for the year, which is roughly $191 million.