The Potluck

Order requiring Minneapolis to hire more cops reversed by Court of Appeals

By: - March 14, 2022 1:05 pm

A Minneapolis police officer stands guard over the Third Police Precinct on May 27, 2020, during protests of George Floyd’s killing. Photo by Chad Davis.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned a judge’s decision ordering the city of Minneapolis to hire more police officers to meet a floor set out in the city charter.

In July, Hennepin County Judge Jamie Anderson ruled in favor of eight north Minneapolis residents, who sued the city claiming Minneapolis wasn’t adhering to the city charter’s minimum staffing requirement of .0017 police employees per resident, or 730 officers. 

Among the plaintiffs is Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member who is challenging U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar in the 5th Congressional District. 

Anderson ordered the city to employ 730 officers by June 30. But the Court of Appeals ruled that there’s no requirement in the charter that the mayor employ a minimum number of officers.

Doug Seaton, founder and president of the Upper Midwest Law Center, which filed the lawsuit against the city on behalf of the residents, called the ruling a “giant setback for the safety of Minneapolis residents.”

“This appeal sets a dangerous precedent that will reignite efforts to defund and dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department by the City Council,” Seaton said in a press release.

Seaton and the Upper Midwest Law Center have often taken on clients pushing a conservative political agenda, including against public employee unions. 

The Court of Appeals noted the impact George Floyd’s police killing and the pandemic have had on MPD, saying the city had 879 sworn officers at the beginning of 2020, with 25 on leave. By 2021, that number dropped to 743, with 92 on leave, leaving 651 available to work. The MPD projects the number of officers will fall below 700 this year but increase to 757 by the end of January 2023, according to the ruling.

Typically, about 44 officers leave the department annually, but 169 sworn officers left in the year after Floyd’s killing and subsequent protests. Meanwhile, homicides went up nearly 71% from 2019 to 2020 and the number of shooting victims went up 105%.

The Upper MidwestLaw Center said it will immediately appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court and seek expedited treatment so a decision can be made before the end of June. 

Erik Nilsson, deputy city attorney for the city of Minneapolis, released a statement applauding the ruling. “The Court of Appeals confirmed that the jobs of recruiting, hiring and training new peace officers are those of the mayor and the police chief and they are fundamentally discretionary.” 

Nilsson added: “This ruling does not change the city’s ongoing commitment to rebuild the police force to the 731 positions we are required by charter to fund and beyond.”

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.