In a Monday ruling, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said Mayor Jacob Frey has a “clear legal duty” under the city’s charter to staff the department with at least 731 sworn officers, a number based on the population of Minneapolis.
Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder said the city has about 300 fewer officers than it did before George Floyd died while in police custody in May 2020.
While the prosecution of four officers involved in Floyd’s death alone may have discouraged many in law enforcement by raising concerns about qualified immunity, leftist politicians in Minneapolis further inflamed tensions by leading the charge in what became a national “defund the police” movement.
The city’s former police chief had attributed the departures to retirements and officers who filed disability claims, some citing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder linked to the protests over Floyd’s killing.
Ginder called it “an unprecedented loss of personnel that is not easily corrected,” but noted that the city has provided funding for additional recruit classes and hiring bonuses.
“Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis Police Department and city are working in good faith to recruit and hire more community-oriented peace officers as quickly as reasonably possible,” Ginder said.
The ruling sends the case back to district court in Hennepin County.
Eight residents concerned about crime sought the court order to force the city to hire more police as required by the charter.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this month from them that the current staffing is about 120 officers less than they believed was required.
Minneapolis attorneys argued that the charter requirement relates only to funding, but the mayor still may determine how the money may be used within the department.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press