State Supreme Court orders Minneapolis to hire more police officers

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The state’s highest court has sided with a group of Minneapolis residents and ordered the city to hire more police officers.

Monday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the city charter not only requires the Minneapolis City Council to fund at least 731 sworn police officers but also requires the mayor to employ at least that many.

It’s the latest turn in the back-and-forth saga and comes after the court heard arguments in the case two weeks ago.

RELATED: Judge rules Minneapolis must hire more police officers to abide by city charter

Last year, a Hennepin County judge ordered the city to hire more officers to fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, or 731 officers, as required by the charter. However, in March, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said the city’s charter only required the council to fund 731 officers — which it is doing — and didn’t require the mayor to actually employ that many.

RELATED: Minnesota Court of Appeals reverses order for Minneapolis to hire more police officers

In the high court’s ruling, Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea wrote that the city’s charter update in 2013 didn’t explicitly make substantive changes for the mayor’s powers. Because of that, under state law, the charter language used prior to that update must be used and that language “makes clear that the Mayor must establish and maintain a police force at the 0.0017 ratio.”

“What the Supreme Court is saying is that the city of Minneapolis has an obligation to both fund and hire the requisite number of officers as required by the city charter, and the bottom line is the City of Minneapolis has to hire more police officers,” explained David Schultz, a professor of law and political science at Hamline University. He said the ruling is a victory for the plaintiffs involved.

Gildea did note that the court can’t control how the mayor uses his discretion to hire the necessary number of officers.

Schultz says the court is not ordering the City Council to take any action — but is directing Mayor Jacob Frey to do more.

“You need to explain to us what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and how you’re acting to get up to the required number of officers,” Schultz said of the ruling. “The way I would describe it is to say that the mayor is saying, ‘I am doing the best I can,’ and the court is saying, ‘Do better. Explain why this is the best and why you are still not where you need to be.'”

Reacting to Monday’s order, Sondra Samuels, one of eight plaintiffs in the case, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she was very excited about the ruling.

“It’s for the children,” Samuel said. “It’s for Deshaun Hill, the murdered North High student, it’s for all the names we can’t even name. It’s for all of them and for the love of the City of Lakes.”

The initial order from the district court ordered the city to have at least 731 sworn police officers by June 30 or show cause as to why it hasn’t met that mark. It’s unclear how much time the city will now have before the court’s deadline, as the district court is expected to consider the latest evidence given all that has happened. It’s also still unclear what punishment the court would impose if the city doesn’t follow the order.

According to city data, Minneapolis had 621 sworn police officers as of May 21, including 39 sworn officers on continuous leave. Interestingly, Gildea noted in her ruling that the provision that ultimately became the city charter’s funding provision and was used to determine the mayor’s duty to employ a minimum number of officers “was clearly meant to address a crime wave in the early 1960s and actually bring onboard 180 additional police officers to combat that crime wave.”

The residents who filed the lawsuit did so due to the rise in crime across Minneapolis, saying the city’s lack of officers was hurting its residents.

Interim City Attorney Peter Ginder issued the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“We are still reviewing the full impact of this order and will be prepared to appear in district court.

“Over the last two years, the Minneapolis Police Department has lost almost 300 peace officers. This is an unprecedented loss of personnel that is not easily corrected.

“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. From additional funding for recruit classes and officer wellness programming to hiring bonuses, the City is continuing to work to rebuild the police force to full strength.”

Interim Minneapolis City Attorney Peter Ginder

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS also reached out to the police union for comment but has not yet heard back.